Wednesday, 20 February 2013

The Agony and The Ecstasy of Steve Jobs - review

Written by: Alex Hiscocks (@alexislawl)

Waterloo East Theatre, London 

Guiltily, as I left the theatre, I turned on my iPhone. Mike Daisey’s monologue had struck home and suddenly the finely designed lump of materials in my hand had a history that I’d never even considered. The story of your device, whatever brand it may be, doesn’t start when it magically appears in a box on your front door or in a store. It starts instead on the other end of the world, your device will pass through hundreds of hands (not machines) before it lands in your own. As I left the theatre my phone had suddenly developed it’s own eerie, dark past. Suffice to say, I will never look at my phone the same way again, and I don’t think anyone else who enjoyed this monologue with me will either.

At a glance of the programme, you’d be forgiven for thinking you were about to be battered by activist clap trap. Surprisingly, Mike Daisey has written a piece that is incredibly relatable and quick witted; and in the hands of Edward Fromson is a joy to watch. Fromson bravely takes to the stage alone, and does not leave for the full 80 minute performance. He takes us from Silicon Valley to Shenzhen, China and back again; throughout picking apart the history of Apple, one of the wealthiest companies on earth. Set is minimal and sleek, a motif to the monologue's subject matter. Fromson also bears great resemblance to a young Steve Jobs and his gripping delivery soon sucks you into the very different worlds of Apple’s history.

What’s great about this piece is how relatable it is to those with even the slightest deeper interest in the devices we take for granted today. Daisey’s monologue hilariously tells what it is to be a technology enthusiast, from child to adult. This truthful foray into the history of technology is strongly reminiscent of what we see today, queues and unanticipated, bed wetting excitement for the latest gadget. The monologue really opens your eyes to the genius of Apple, a company so huge it can dictate what it’s customers want to have and the consumers will still bend over backwards to get their mits on it. Even if, in the case of the iPod Mini and the iPod Nano, the latest hardware is actually a comparative downgrade from the previous model.

Photo: Ashley Gadd
Mike Daisey’s monologue is powerful, especially in the hands of Fromson. It does well to open your eyes to the realities of the technology industry and even challenges you to investigate the authenticity of the tales told within. While urging you to act, it in no way forces you to picket outside Downing Street, at it’s least it is an entertaining monologue that adds extra weight and perspective to the devices in our pockets. At most, it is a piece that has potential to truly move people to act against the human rights abuses occurring in China today, right now. If you love your phone more than your significant other, or if you simply take a mild interest in technology. This impressive and brave performance is a must see.

This production runs until 23 February 2013.

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