James Graham (@mrJamesGraham) writes plays for fringe venues that quickly transfer to huge auditoriums. This House, which began life in 2012 in the Cottesloe Theatre in London, sold out the flagship Olivier when it moved. Will something similar happen to Privacy, James’s almost-autobiographical journey through the internet? Probably. The version I saw at London’s Donmar Warehouse was witty, very accessible (ideal for school trips and citizenship classes), and turns the internet in general – and social media in particular – into a sort of politically chilling stage magic act. Right now the core of the piece – the disintegration of a personality when it’s continually second-guessed by all-seeing but unthinking machines – lies buried under a lot of stage business. (Much is made of a super-secret dramatic reversal that does not work at all.) But James means to keep the play abreast of current events so there’ll be plenty of time to iron out the wrinkles. Here’s the booking page, if you’re tempted: Privacy deserves a public.
Bumper, Blackspot and Stateless. Three short films by the critical designer and futurist Tobias Revell, with cinematographer Joseph Popper.
Silent, Mostly unpeopled. Still. Lighthouse, Brighton’s digital agency, commissioned these films for House 2014, the town’s annual visual arts festival, which runs until 25 May.
A woman hunts out a digital shadow from where, unmolested, she can dial up vital personal information.
A man hunkers down on Dungenness beach to access domestic French web-servers in an attempt to evade trading restrictions.
A journalist wipes his personal identity and assembles a new one in minutes, to evade the forces of state security.
This is what these films are about. What they actually do is different. What they give you. Calm, and silence, and – oddly – a sense of there being nothing to see.
Roll film again: a woman walks through an industrial estate, studying her smart phone. A man crouches inside a fisherman’s tent, his back to the camera. Another man sits down in a library, then leaves.
The events, the implications, the politics of states and borders, are clear enough, and are what gives these films their pompous portmanteau title – The Monopoly of Legitimate Use, indeed – and their utility for a festival centred around ideas of “migration, refuge and territory”.
But these events, these transactions and transgressions, aren’t really taking place in the physical world at all. They are taking place on-line; on and in and behind glass; at most, in the reflections of tears.
They are not cold films, but they do locate their human action in the digital elsewhere, leaving their actors largely inexpressive, their turmoils and triumphs implied through the plot. Told, not shown.
The result is strangely hopeful. Revell’s is world of borders and restrictions, by-laws and embargoes. But his people, through the cumulative effect of countless subtle transgressions, have already evaded it. They are not escaping, they have already escaped, to the Other Side.