THEATRE ROYAL PLYMOUTH – 23 MARCH 2019
GOD OF CHAOS
RUNNING TIME 80 MINUTES – No interval
Theatre Royal Plymouth Box Office – 01752 267222
REVIEW – CORMAC RICHARDS – 12 MARCH 2018
It is no coincidence, I am sure, that this play is timed to open on the 30th anniversary of the submission of proposals for the web by its founder, Sir Tim Berners-Lee. To mark the occasion, Berners-Lee offered his thoughts on the current state of his invention. “I’m very concerned about nastiness and misinformation spreading” and that Global action is required to tackle the web’s “downward plunge to a dysfunctional future”. Concerns about the use of the internet and the power it has acquired to shape thoughts and actions have increased considerably in recent years. It is a hugely complex topic and one which Phil Porter investigates in his new play.
Tasked with the challenge of the theme ‘thinking big’ for his next project, Porter went big – very big. The role of moderators for social media platforms offered the inspiration for a discussion about the whys and wherefores of our use of this most influential of technologies. How does one decide on what is bad taste or violent or unacceptable in some other way? What is blasphemous to Tom, might not be so to Harry. What constitutes extreme violence?
The Drum is often the blank canvas upon which is created some wonderfully effective sets and this is no different. 3 desks (one each for moderating Words, Pictures and Videos) sit in an office, which is decaying. A backdrop of 13 randomly arranged screens flicker. The movement sensor is on the blink and continually shuts down the huge circular fluorescent light, until it is waved at. A tangle of wires adds to the archaic setting for the most modern of inventions.
Colleagues Stan and Rosa discuss the virtues or otherwise of lab-grown meat as they, automaton-like, delete or accept the images and words in front of them. Newcomer Becky is introduced to this ‘Big Brother’ world and witnesses how the office incumbents have almost become immune to any effects of what they see on their screens. But Becky has reason enough to want to work assiduously in ridding the net of the influences that lead her younger brother to take his own life. ‘You can’t blame the internet for your brother’s death’ says the spiky Rosa, ‘It’s like blaming the sea if someone drowns.’ Rosa takes the debate into full flood. It’s riveting stuff. When Becky witnesses a series of videos of a man seemingly being tortured she is shocked into investigating further.
In a final scene where there is a real sense of tension and unease, Becky finds the young man involved. The resulting denouement flips the issue and offers a resolution that is both optimistic and very suddenly deeply moving.
As Stan, Ryan Early, has a wonderfully positive view on life, even though he is desperate to leave his job and equally desperate to find love. It is a lovely performance of warmth and sadness. Lizzy Watts is his antithesis, damning almost everything in life and feeling entirely impotent about the work she does. A caustic, in-you-face, but ultimately sad person and a finely acted character. From Laura Waldren as Becky we get a full raft of emotion from the happy-go-lucky new recruit to the distressed and horrified sister wanting to stop others from following her brothers’ path. Beautifully judged in tone and pace, this is an excellent performance. In the small, but pivotal role of Adam, Omar Austin makes a very impressive professional stage debut – not knowing which side of the fence he is on, his jaunty delivery is gently nuanced to feed our unease.
David Mercatali directs with certainty and care and ensures the very best comes from the script and the excellent cast. The technical team almost create another character; from the lightning quick photo and word montages which fill the screens, to the white noise between scenes and the constant flickerings of lights and monitors. This is excellence all round from Ian William Galloway (Video Designer), Lauren Kunicki (Video Programmer), Malcolm Rippeth (Lighting Design) and Martin Ward (Sound Design).
Phil Porter describes God of Chaos as “a small play about big things” a perfect description and it is one we can all buy into. He writes great banter and pithy dialogue and packs an emotional punch when you least expect it. It would be fascinating to hear what Sir Tim Berners-Lee would make of it.
God of Chaos is a carefully and cleverly crafted play for today and warrants our attention.
ADAM – OMAR AUSTIN
STAN – RYAN EARLY
BECKY – LAURA WALDRON
ROSA – LIZZY WATTS
WRITER – PHIL PORTER
DIRECTOR – DAVID MERCATALI
SET & COSTUME – GRACE SMART
LIGHTING DESIGN – MALCOLM RIPPETH
SOUND DESIGN – MARTIN WARD
VIDEO DESIGN – IAN WILLIAM GALLOWAY
VIDEO PROGRAMMER – LAUREN KUNICKI
REHEARSAL PHOTOGRAPH – EMILY APPLETON