The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs

Rating [rating=3]

Reviewed by Tony Peters

After sitting through Edward Fromson’s performance of Mike Daisy’s monologue, the routine pre-show request to turn off mobile phones had an unexpected resonance and felt rather like a call to arms.

The piece, which focuses on the dubious practices of computer and uber-desirable gadget manufacturer, Apple, immediately attracted controversy when it was first performed in 2010, resulting in the author being forced to cut around five minutes of contentious material. So what we have here is “Version 2.0”, but the content is no less potent.

Lasting around 80 minutes without an interval, it tells us that behind Apple boss Steve Jobs’ chummy techno geek persona lay a man who was something of a megalomaniac and a supreme manipulator of his staff — no big surprises there. But Daisy really grabs our attention with revelations about worker conditions in the massive Foxconn factory in China where the hardware is produced — a Draconian disciplinary system and unworkable shift patterns that has driven staff to suicide.

There are some moments of humour amid the gloom — anyone who has sat through an interminable office meeting will empathise with the section on the dreaded Powerpoint presentation — and it says much for Fromson’s engaging performance that he managed to hold the attention and raise a smile when I began to feel I was on the receiving end of a right old hectoring.

This is a subject that Daisy rightly feels strongly about — to the extent that he has made the work available royalty free to be performed by anyone willing to spread the word — and the content is certainly thought provoking. But I have my doubts about whether enough people will be prepared to abandon Apple products and jump off the merry-go-round of must-have system upgrades for any protest to make a difference.

Waterloo East is a very well appointed little theatre that is decorated in a pleasing modern style. The auditorium is comfortable and the performance space seems a good size for a small theatre. I was a little concerned about the trains rumbling overhead before the lights went down, but while they can’t be ignored, they weren’t as distracting as I feared.

Written by Mike Daisy
Performed by Edward Fromson
Directed by Nasser Memarzia

Waterloo East Theatre 5-23 February 2013