REVIEW: DARKNET (The Southwark Playhouse)


You are spying on me!” – “It is called sharing, Allen.

Darknet, a collaboration between writer Rose Lewenstein and director Russell Bender takes us to a dystopian future where people share their most intimate and private details on social media network MyCloud and the value of their data decides their whole life. Bad news for Kyla’s mother Stacey (Rosie Thomson) who is told that her score would hit rock bottom if she got treatment for her drug addiction – the information would be well publicised and made available via Octopus Inc. Kyla (Ella McLoughlin) approaches the asocial Jamie, who just got grounded for exchanging the school homepage with an image of a penis, hoping that he can help her order methadone for her mother on the deep net.

Meanwhile hacker Gary aka Houdini (Naveed Khan) is serving a prison sentence for planting the worst virus ever, named Kyla, which led to the publication of countless data. Octopus Inc., represented by Allen (Gyuri Sarossy), wants Gary to work for them but Gary won’t betray his ideals – not yet. Allen has exploited the data that Gary retrieved for the benefit of the company for years without facing any consequences but now the investigation is closing in on him. Allen fights his loneliness by contacting stripper Candy (Greer Dale-Foulkes) on Cam-Sight just to have somebody attractive to talk to. He loses himself in a fake relationship with the girl.

The play paints a future in which people are completely transparent, their data is owned and shared by private companies and immediately accessible. Only a few groups of hackers fight back. Meanwhile one of the most popular TV programs is a reality show with the slogan: “Are you ready to ruin someone’s life? There is always something worse happening on 4Cam”: Vulnerable people are targeted and exposed on TV, having all their private data broadcast to millions of viewers. This is an interesting premise for a play as a privatisation of our data is already happening and a tracking system on our mobiles is firmly in place. And of course vulgar reality shows belong to our daily TV fare although they are not quite as extreme – yet.

The problem with this production is that it tries to cover too much, going into too many directions at once, and forgets about telling the story. Although the play is called Darknet we learn rather little about it except that you can buy illegal wares on sites such as Cosmos and hackers are on the prowl to fight companies like Octopus Inc., a very telling name that no sane company manager would use. The cast is very good, especially Ella McLoughlin as Kyla and Jim English as Jamie but I wonder about the female characters as they are all victimised by sexual acts or working in the sex business.

The set design by Mila Sanders features a wall of screens, often displaying online celebrities such as Grumpy Cat, whilst the cast carries door frames and smaller frames across the stage.

Reviewed by Carolin Kopplin
Photo: Lidia Crisafulli

Darknet is playing at the Southwark Playhouse until 7th May