Teh Internet Is Serious Business

Published September 24, 2014

What’s it all about?

It isn’t surprising that there isn’t a playtext available for the Royal Court’s latest production; in fact, it’s hard to believe that Tim Price’s off-the-wall concept ever existed on paper. Condescending Wonkas, Socially Awkward Penguins and Pedobears appear as physical manifestations of their online presences in Teh Internet Is Serious Business, which sees characters swallowed by a giant ball pit, ascend from trapdoors in the floor and jump in and out of holes in the walls.

To give you a sense of storyline, this is the tale of an 18-year-old Scot and a 15-year-old school boy from Southwark who meet on an Internet hacking forum. Together with their fellow hackers they bring down the websites of some of the world’s most powerful organisations, from Fox News to the FBI.

At a time when headlines about 4chan threatening to leak nude pictures of Emma Watson and hackers spying on people through their own webcams dominate our newspapers – and computer screens – this is also a timely and alarming piece that makes you question and fear how safe you are in a world where the Internet is both vastly influential and terrifyingly vulnerable.

Who’s in it?

A 15-strong cast is tasked with portraying the sprawling digital ether in Hamish Pirie’s madcap production. Among them, they take on a plethora of roles, from Tom Cruise and Rick Astley to Advice Dog and Grumpy Cat, as well as mothers, web designers, restaurant managers and hackers. This truly is an ensemble piece but there are stand-out performances from Sargon Yelda, who takes on a whopping 11 roles including a convincingly Condescending Wonka, Nathaniel Martello-White whose performance as a physical expression of Piratebay is one of the funniest in the show, and Kae Alexander, who is constantly asked to prove her gender online by flashing a certain part of her anatomy.

What should I look out for?

The moment when, just as you think Chloe Lamford’s set couldn’t get any sillier, inflatable penises and sex dolls fall from the ceiling.

In a nutshell?

The vast and evolving realm of the World Wide Web is splashed across the Jerwood Theatre Downstairs in a mass of colour and craziness as Tim Price presents the limitless possibilities and ever-increasing dangers of the digital world we live in.

Who was in the press night crowd?

We spotted James McAvoy – donning a baseball cap – as he arrived at the Sloane Square venue and had the pleasure of sharing the first row of the circle with Olivier Award winner and Sherlock star Andrew Scott.

What’s being said on Twitter?

@Brrnrrd Set design for Teh Internet is Serious Business was amazing last night. That’s exactly what my misspent youth felt like. @royalcourt

@markbrown14 The internet on stage, truly brilliant and funny and remarkable play at #royalcourt. #TehInternetIsSeriousBusiness

Will I like it?

This show is so bizarre, so utterly insane and hilarious, that you won’t just want to see it, you’ll want to star in it. Yet, while the sight of interpretative dance being used to represent digital code and file-sharing being portrayed through the distribution of alcoholic drinks is undeniably funny, there are also some perturbing moments, such as a deceased girl’s Facebook page being trolled by macabre figures with black cheerleading pom poms, that allow you to take a step back and remember that these things – albeit without the pom poms – actually happen.

For all its Willy Wonkas and Cats, this is not your typical theatrical night out so we suggest you swot up on your online jargon before going.

Teh Internet Is Serious Business is playing until 25 October. You can book tickets through the Royal Court’s website.