For once, you are requested to leave your phone on at the theatre. It will become an integral part of the first act of Privacy, James Graham’s interactive new play about life in an age of unprecedented surveillance and monitoring of our lives, and how much of it we seem to freely or at least unwittingly to surrender.
Of course, the revelations of Edward Snowden have shown just how much we’re being watched already by the state but it’s chastening to discover just how we’re giving away, too, whether through the privacy tracking settings out our iPhones I’d never looked at mine until this show showed me how to, supermarket loyalty cards, or on Facebook.
Part verbatim drama, drawn from extensive interviews with politicians and journalists, digital specialists and academics, it has been rivetingly constructed into a thriller for the internet age. And it raises all sorts of complex and fascinating questions that we now have to grapple with as never before. Are we the sum of the data being collected about us? Do our pasts follow us forever? What are the differences between privacy and secrecy? “If you’ve nothing to hide, you’ve nothing to fear,” said foreign secretary William Hague. But is that really true?
The play grapples with a huge subject, or rather series of them, and at times darts around a bit, cramming in so many sources and strands of thought that it’s not always easy to get hold of a narrative thread. But it is, by turns, absorbing, chastening and alarming for anyone who leaves an online footprint anywhere – and that’s all of us now.
A versatile cast of just six terrific actors flesh out an enormous variety of different characters in Josie Rourke’s propulsive production. It makes an important contribution to an urgent conversation.
- Donmar Warehouse, London
- April 22-May 31
- Author: James Graham
- Director: Josie Rourke
- Producer: Donmar Warehouse
- Cast: Gunnar Cauthery, Paul Chahidi, Jonathan Coy, Joshua McGuire, Nina Sosanya, Michelle Terry
- Running time: 2hrs 30mins
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