Self-confessed former 'Apple Fanboy' and tech enthusiast Michael Daisey has had legal action brought against him by the company after they contested several claims in his notorious monologue. Grant O'Rourke performs this revised version of Daisey's powerful polemic, outlining the rise of Apple and detailing its questionable manufacturing ethics. The late Jobs' life is weaved through the statistics, traced from acid-dropping 'techno-libertarian hippy' twenty-something to CEO of one of the most profitable companies in the world. Daisey tells a harrowing tale of exploitation and excess, pointing the finger squarely at corporate greed and finally out into his audience.
As an anti-corporation monologue, Agony and Ecstasy's power lies in its specificity: unlike, say, Wallace Shawn's The Fever, Daisey does not operate on an abstract level of metaphor and allusion but dramatises primary research and structures it with a persuasive narrative. Daisey travelled with a translator to China's Shenzhen city, where Foxconn, 'the biggest company you've never heard of', produces over half the world's electronic products. Their shocking working conditions and authoritarian union-crushing have led to headline-hitting suicides by workers, many of whom jumped from the roofs of Foxconn's towering factories. One of their biggest clients is Apple.
O'Rourke's delivery is enthralling; part Ted talk, part stand-up infused with theatrical flair. It's an accessible format that's consistently aware of its duty to entertain as much as inform, with moments of spine-tingling revelation and a couple of big laughs. Stood behind what looks like an Apple Store 'Genius Bar', O'Rourke's energised performance is like a lecture from your nuttiest university professor.
Regardless of accusations over details or debates about theatrical license versus journalistic integrity, it's a fascinating listen for anyone who's used an Apple product or any electrical appliance ever. Despite its obvious target, what hits home about this polemic is Daisey's wider comments on globalization; this is not a case of one rotten Apple spoiling the barrel, but rather a culture with a sickness at its core - a 'mind-virus' that's as much about our wilful ignorance of production as our insatiable appetite for consumption.