Switching my phone back on after Edward Fromson’s performance of Mike Daisey's The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs was difficult. I have an iPhone. An iPhone that, I suppose I thought, had simply popped into existence; as if Steve Jobs had simply snapped his fingers and millions of the things had suddenly appeared neatly piled in their bubble wrap packaging. Except I didn’t think. Before tonight, I gave no thought whatsoever to how my own little phone had come into the world. I didn’t care. The point is that I had it, and, in having it, could claim myself as part of the new religion Apple and its saviour Steve Jobs.
Daisey’s monologue seeks to, with a large dose of animation and humour, dismantle the previously guilt free relationship I had with my phone, and indeed many of today’s gadgets. In interweaving the story of Jobs’ rise to power with his own experience of visiting the Chinese factories in which Apple products are made, Daisey bridges the gap between the cold, hard surfaces of your latest piece of technology and the dexterous, work weary fingers that have painstakingly put your product together.
I sat in awe at my ignorance as Fromson, sitting in a white, minimalist set akin to that of a Macbook exterior, told us of Foxconn, a company that produces an estimated half of Western household gadgets including Apple products such as the iPhone and iPad. Many of these gadgets are made in its largest factory, based in the Chinese city of Shenzhen. With its 300,000 workers and suicide nets, the factory sounds like the Dark Tower of Mordor; the stuff of nightmares. And yet it is very real, just as the suffering of those who work there is. That Fromson manages to deliver this message without the slightest hint of preaching is a real testament to his incredibly engaging and witty style.
This is not a guilt trip. As Fromson says, this is a “mind virus,” in which we beat Apple at their own game, harnessing their products to spread the word on companies such as Foxconn. Inspiring and thought-provoking, The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs has infected us all.