Confronting head-on complex ethical dilemmas that co-exist with modern Western imperialism, this new play written by Rory Horne is urgent, engaging and also deeply entertaining. Based around the experiences and motivations of out-of-work plumber Chris in Nevada, desperate to support her ill and emotionally cold mother, the narrative develops from a life-changing meeting over the internet with vigilante data analyst Josh.
This is theatre at its most disturbing and thought-provoking.
The play begins with a light and flirty tone between the two of them, discussing the small things that they both enjoy in daily life. The effect of having both actors on stage, moving closer as they speak, despite not actually being able to see each other as they are only communicating using an instant messenger, is very well done. It immediately sets the audience out as having greater access to the emotions and body languages of the characters than they do of one another. This becomes increasingly important as the narrative develops, as they remain physically separated until right at the end, despite the huge impact that they come to have on each other.
Josh begins to share details of the ‘Conflict Clarity’ organisation that he is running, which documents the civilian casualties caused by the American military’s drone strikes in the Middle East, bringing into stark focus the questionable legacy of the Obama administration. Chris gets slowly sucked into this world, supporting Josh financially through increasingly dubious dealings on the Dark Web, making money from predicting the civilian casualties that are to come in Iraq and Syria. Over the course of the play, she becomes completely immersed in obsession and blind to the ethical quandaries that she has found herself at the heart of. The fact that the audience can see this coming before it dawns on her through a chilling dream sequence adds a thick layer of suspense.
Both the main actors—Rosa Caines and Dom Luck—capture with precision the conflicted emotions that their characters are dealing with, both said and unsaid. The play brings out deeply complex questions about the moral responsibility that individual citizens have for the actions of their country, and the acceptability of profiting from the devastation in war-torn countries. They have also managed to capture how the internet can falsely make tragedy appear detached and contained. Using only a sparse collection of props, including an on-stage printer providing visual dispatches of war, the cast of three is able to immerse all in the situations that they have engineered. There is no let up throughout, and the dialogue is both meaningful yet realistic. This is theatre at its most disturbing and thought-provoking.