13 screens are flashing and flickering at me. They project images of digitally manipulated thick forestry, which distort and quiver. There’s an oppressive oval ring light illuminating three desks, all with huge bottles of antibacterial gel. Wires loop all around the set and out of the ceiling.
Immediately I’m feeling some Black Mirror vibes.
The show opens with two characters, Rosa (Lizzy Watts) and Stan (Ryan Early), engaging in some general office chit-chat. More specifically, a debate on vegetarianism. I instantly warm to Rosa, who appears to be incredibly self-aware and conscious. Stan seems a little inflammatory, poking Rosa further with increasingly hypothetical questions. In modern day terms, Rosa is woke af and hypercritical of Stan’s views, which are obviously there to keep her biting.
My love for Rosa and Stan’s relationship continues to grow. They both work as moderators, deleting or approving content on an online forum, which breeds debate and heated conversations in the workplace. She takes stabs at him for being an oblivious ‘straight male’, and he reciprocates by calling her a ‘very oppressed middle class white woman’. It’s an amusing and charismatic working relationship.
The scene transitions into the next; the screens flicker and flash with images and messages, the lights go off, and confusing noises fill the room. It makes me think of ‘Love It If We Made It’ by the 1975; the screens fill with disturbing images and headlines which have flooded social media and shocked the world.
The key character of the play enters the stage – a very northern girl named Becky (Laura Waldren). She’s new to the office, and keen to make a change. Very quickly into the role, we find out that her brother died by suicide, and she blames the internet. This is when things change – Rosa takes a bitter turn, criticising and taunting Becky for her naivety, while Stan is more absorbed by his own desires to change jobs than to take care of his employee. My opinion of Rosa really declines, as continued exposure turns her from ‘world conscious’ to pessimistic, mean, and draining.
I won’t go into the nitty gritty of the plot, however I will say that the story is split into two and threaded together by Becky’s character, who is disturbed and frightened by a violent video series which keeps appearing up on the website. While Stan and Rosa are numb to these performances, Becky is compelled to help.
I don’t 100% understand the second half and neither does my boyfriend – there’s a lengthy dialogue between Becky and a fourth character called Adam (Omar Austin), but it’s not clear what he’s trying to say, or really how it links in with the overall message of the show. On the up side, it’s absolutely certain that the acting of all four actors is enormously impressive and enjoyable.
I think that the show needs to really nail its message, as I’ve spoken with a few people who found it quite confusing. Regardless, it’s still a thought-provoking watch, with truly impressive production and refined acting skills.