James Graham's Privacy impresses critics
James Graham's latest play, looking at the collection and use of our personal data, opened at the Donmar Warehouse last night
…Standout performances come from the play's two lead characters. McGuire's ebullient performance drives the information-laden play through to its startling end. Meanwhile Michelle Terry's performance as the director is overshadowed only by her own impeccable enactment of a 16 year old interviewee. Rourke has directed another stunner for the Covent Garden venue and the creative team consisting of Lucy Osborne (designer), Richard Howell (lighting) and Christopher Shutt (sound) excel in their respective departments. Special mention should be made to Duncan McLean (projection designer) and Anthony Lilley (interactive content designer) for the stunning projection… Privacy is an important piece of theatre, not only tremendously acted and produced but also challenging, thought provoking and enlightening. It will have you laughing, gasping and changing the settings on your phone.
…although I found the result endlessly fascinating, the mass of information and the diversity of styles means the promised debate never really matures… [James] Graham… certainly has his finger on the pulse. He also offers a mass of information and ideas… It's a busy, rich, adrenaline-fuelled evening. It is also cleverly directed by Josie Rourke and well acted by Gunnar Cauthery, Paul Chahidi, Jonathan Coy, Joshua McGuire (the Writer), Nina Sosanya and Michelle Terry (the Director). But, for all its urgent topicality, I felt the play short-circuited the crucial debate about how we guarantee a measure of privacy in the digital age… The play will, I'm sure, trigger fierce discussions among its audience. But, much as I enjoyed the evening, I found myself craving more in the way of dialectical argument.
Theatre doesn't come much more topical than this… Graham's approach is a hybrid of documentary and extended comedy sketch, though occasionally it feels like a tutorial… The audience has opportunities to participate — we're encouraged to use our phones, rather than tuck them away. This alarmingly illustrates the amount of data we unwittingly share. Graham reflects in a more measured fashion on the ways communications technology is changing attitudes to personal space and the very idea of identity… Michelle Terry is superb as a pushy version of the show's director Josie Rourke. The impressive volume of research means that Privacy feels a little overstuffed. But this is a slick piece that sometimes shimmers with bravura and finds a vein of racy humour amid the Orwellian angst.
…It could be a David Hare-style state of the nation piece, but Privacy frequently takes a jokey approach… It doesn't quite succeed. Graham has bitten off more than he can chew - or than we can digest… Privacy is scattergun, never quite joining the dots between the personal and the political. There's about four plays unfolding here… What unites them is a laudably questing, striving spirit… The cast is snappy, switching between characters deftly. They're helped by Lucy Osborne's tech-savvy design… And Privacy makes the abstract land firmly in your own backyard too: snippets and places from your own life may flash up on screen, be read out, mined just from the ordinary information you give when booking a ticket… In this, Privacy is a brilliantly devilish wake-up call to consider your digital footprint.
…even a Luddite like me learnt a lot from this play, and more surprisingly, I found myself laughing a good deal despite experiencing Orwellian shivers of fear at the way in which so many of us casually and often unknowingly pass on so much information to shadowy organisations of which we know little when going online or using our mobile phones… though the play addresses serious and urgent themes it is often highly entertaining too… A cast of six perform a wide variety of roles… with particularly fine work from Joshua McGuire… Michelle Terry… Jonathan Coy… and Paul Chahidi… The great surprise about Privacy is that despite its weighty subject matter Rourke's production contrives to be consistently light on its feet, and is by turn funny, touching and downright scary.