WhatsOnStage Logo

Social Theatre Networking

WhatsOnStage logo
The brilliant new film The Social Network has many striking theatrical resonances. It's co-produced by Scott Rudin, a Broadway eminence and former press agent. Its executive producer is Kevin Spacey.

And one of its stars is Andrew Garfield, who made such an impression at the National Theatre a few years ago - he was in an NT Connections triple bill and played Matthew Marsh's son in JT Rogers's outstanding play about the Rwanda genocide, The Overwhelming - that he won the Evening Standard Most Promising Newcomer award.

The Social Network is the true story of Facebook, and pretty frightening it is, too. What starts as a college prank becomes a billion dollar industry creating monster moguls scarcely out of their diapers - and a runaway mode of communication that tramples on privacy and, according to the film at least, makes nobody happy and a few people mega-rich.
The script is by West Wing writer Aaron Sorkin, the director is David Fincher and the performances are uniformly perfect - including those of Max Minghella (Anthony's son); Jesse Eisenberg as the leading geek and programming genius, Mark Zuckerberg; Justin Timberlake as the smart and evil impresario who moves the Facebook operation to LA, with disastrous consequences; and Armie Hammer as both the entrepreneurial Winklevoss twins, whose case against Zuckerberg for ripping off their original idea fuels the flashback narrative.

Not least among the movie's technical wonders is the editing that really fools you that the Winklevosses are played by two different identical actors: how did they do that?!

Above all, you leave the cinema wondering, where will it all end? Most people I know on Facebook sort of regret being there. Some try and adjust their privacy levels. I don't want anything to do with it.

Keeping in touch with friends is something you should work hard at, not take for granted. Some years ago, a boy I was at primary school with got in touch with me.

I had not seen him since we were both aged ten and played in our school football team together. He was our best player and scored most of our goals. He was cheeky and chirpy and full of beans.

Forty years on we met for lunch. He was dull, middle-aged, balding, embarked on a second marriage and driving a cab. We made a go of being friendly for a few weeeks, even had a second lunch. But it was a total disaster. We had nothing in common, and I've had my precious memories of our childhood friendship sullied, if not totally destroyed.

So I don't want my Facebook details out there for the same thing to happen again. That's not to say I don't think the whole thing is the most tremendous phenomenon.

We are living through a tumultuous time of communication and information explosion. But what might the price be?

Meditating on the imminent death of the literary correspondence at the weekend (in the Guardian, a propos the newly published, deeply sad-sounding letters between Philip Larkin and his muse/lover Monica Jones), Martin Amis said that "although William Trevor and VS Naipul, say, may yet reward us, it already sounds fogeyish to reiterate that, no, we won't be seeing, and we won't be wanting to see, the selected faxes and emails, the selected texts and tweets of their successors." 

The pessimistic, almost irresistible, view is that social writing will soon become totally disposable, just as friendship and - who knows? - all human contact will become humdrum, casual, transient and meaningless.

Which is just one more reason to hang on to whatever it is we still possess in the theatre. And in such disturbing and thought-provoking new movies as The Social Network.


Tagged in this Story