Review: Arcadia, Bristol Tobacco Factory
Review: Mike Bartlett's An Intervention, Watford Palace Theatre

Review: Privacy at the Donmar or playing with mobiles in the theatre

The in audience safety card for Privacy, keep an ear out for Simon Russell Beale's voice over

On Monday night the audience at the Donmar was asked to do something extraordinary - play with their mobiles. Now that isn't extraordinary for those with no manners who cannot switch off but for the vast majority who stow their phones safely away for the duration of a play it was a decidedly odd sensation.

Playwright James Graham has taken audience interaction to a new level with Privacy. His play The Man at the Finborough in 2010 required the audience to hand the solo actor receipts about which a story unfolded. In Privacy the audience is given exercises, for want of a better description, in which to demonstrate points of information the protagonist, a writer (Joshua Maguire), discovers and uses.

The play debates security and internet privacy and the morals and effectiveness of how personal information is used. The writer is working on a piece about Edward Snowden's expose of CIA surveillance tactics which, aside from putting him under potential scrutiny from the security services, also serves to demonstrate what and how information is gleaned.

On a more personal level the writer is a bit of an introvert, obsessed with his own privacy to the point where he eschews social media and finds it difficult to let people into his life.

The rest of the cast play a mixture of the writer's acquaintances, friends and depictions of real life people from his research.

My description probably doesn't do it justice but Privacy is at times like a vibrant lecture with drama, comedy and audience interaction thrown in. It is a tangle of forms that mirror the tangle of information about internet security and privacy. It is brilliantly performed and imaginatively staged against a symbolic back drop of finger print casts over which there are various projections including live web searches.

You won't have seen anything else quite like it and you won't have experienced anything quite like it. You will walk out the theatre having learnt at least two things you didn't know about the internet and you'll have had a lot of fun along the way. At least I did.

Privacy is on at the Donmar Warehouse until 31 May.


Easy direct connection, Joshua Maguire was in The Hour with Mr W.