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Review: Kristin Scott Thomas' impassioned Electra at the Old Vic

Review: Teh Internet is serious business at the Royal Court

Bewildering---Teh-Interne-011There is just a little irony in the fact that a play about the internet is two hours thirty five minutes long (with interval) and Greek tragedy, Elektra, which is also opening this week, is one hour forty straight through.

Not that Tim Price's play Teh Internet Is Serious Business isn't lacking in ideas and imagination; making coding and internet geeks exciting isn't easy and it certainly succeeds in that, the problem is the first and second halves feel out of kilter.

Based on true events, although using dramatic licence Teh Internet is about group of hackers who meet in the chat room 4Chan and wreak havoc on corporate and government websites across the globe.

The first half sets the scene. The two central characters "Topiary" (Kevin Guthrie) and "TFlow" (Jeetooa) are young, bright, talented but one is agoraphobic and the other finds social situations a challenge. The internet world they enter is depicted by a blank gray stage with doors and window-style entrances and exits from all sides and the floor - a physical embodiment of virtual chat room with people popping up from all places.

At the front is a ball pool from where popular internet meme characters appear - socially awkward penguin, paedo bear and a plethora of others I'd never heard of but you get the gist.

Initially the group just want to seek revenge on the Church of Scientology for removing a leaked video clip of Tom Cruise but it soon spirals beyond sophisticated yet juvenile pranks and calls for protest.

Much of the detail of how they do what they do will only be understood by those who already understand these things but again you get the gist - coding is rather amusingly symbolised by means of interpretive dance, which is better than is sounds.

The first half is frenetic and in your face and highlights both what is joyful, ridiculous and downright nasty about the internet, how people quickly become de-humanised and moral conscience disappears. But for all its pace it does go on a bit. Executed in a really interesting way its message and tone is quickly gleaned but it fails to move on rapidly enough.

In the second half the story is crystalised and the plot tighter and it takes on the feel of a cat and mouse thriller as the group grow more and more ambitious and the authorities try and track them down. It feels like a reward for a slightly flabby first half although not all of the audience stayed to experience it.

Teh Internet Is Serious Business is definitely a feat of direction, vision and acting. It doesn't all work and somewhere its message gets lost in its execution but it stands out as a production. Yes, it certainly stands out and for that alone it has to be admired.

It runs at the Royal Court Theatre downstairs until Oct 25.


Kevin Guthrie was in Macbeth with James McAvoy who appeared in a photo shoot about up and coming actors with Mr W.