F Off review – all rise for the people vs Mark Zuckerberg | Stage
In a recent New Yorker cartoon by Emily Flake, a man is unpacking boxes of T-shirts branded with the slogan: #TeamFeralHog. Another man stands behind him, looking disapproving. The caption reads: “I think you may have miscalculated the length of the modern attention span.” A week is a decade online, as the National Youth Theatre demonstrate in this scatty meditation on social media, politics and data usage. “It’s all about attention,” they tell us. However messy this ambitious meta drama is, NYT firmly sustain ours.
The audience are asked to be the jury in the trial of the people vs Mark Zuckerberg, when Facebook’s CEO is accused of data theft. Alongside this, we see technology’s interference with democracy reverberate through domestic narratives: a mum standing to be MP starts working with a conniving tech company, while her daughter starts DMing a stranger on Twitter. Tatty Hennessy’s script attacks both ends of the political spectrum, with the overarching suggestion that whatever your politics, likes now overrule morals.
It is delightfully chaotic, and the large cast chuck everything at it. The play has the feel of a barrage of memes – impressively up to date and just about managing to subvert cliches. Inevitably, when there is so much going on at once, some of it doesn’t work. The interactive form feels more larky than purposeful, though it is undeniably fun to be so involved. An overly extended Facebook Live magic trick metaphor starts to drag, while chucking unused props into a net above the set feels like a heavily obvious way of representing the cloud. But the overwhelming nature of the material is arguably apt, and a lot of the most audacious sections – ever seen Zuckerberg tap dance before? – are highly entertaining. Paul Roseby’s direction veers between slick and skittish, and the cast work well together to create a room that fizzes with energy.
The play delves smartly into racial politics, hypocrisy and questions of accountability. It may feel gimmicky, but F Off is dynamic, fun and makes you question both our use of the internet and the internet’s use of us.
• At Underbelly, Cowgate, Edinburghntil 25 August.