Here I am thinking: I am about to walk into this theatre as an internet guru. Having looked into the show prior to watching, I saw that it interestingly used WhatsApp, so that the actor and writer of this production, Javaad Alipoor, could communicate with his audience via a giant group chat. Immediately, I confidently acknowledged that I, as a young teen who spends all my time on social media, am in my element. WhatsApp? Already had it downloaded on my state of the art iPhone. Memes? I can name them all; Pepe is no stranger to me. And yet, what this one-man show had done was open up an entirely unknown realm to me, filled with what felt like completely other-worldly beings… posting some seriously scary stuff. Of course the irony is, I’ve probably seen these people on a day-to-day basis my whole life, whether that be on the news or in walking past them in the streets or even being in my class at school.
Picture, if you will, three young men who commonly share a feeling of rejection, unwanted in their surrounding life which they live whilst going unnoticed. They may have great academic ability and a future ahead of them, and yet no sense of purpose or acts to fulfil him. They may be unloved by their peers or close family members. They may be of different race, or different religion. But all possess a found commonplace within millions of codes. You can create identity for yourself. It’s incredible, but terrifying. Intertwined with extremism, these diversely different men become two opposing sides to the story of terrorism. Left and right. Black and white.
The story-telling encompassed with the modern, tech-savvy set was, in my opinion, genius. This was a show delving into some of the darkest parts of the web, revealing just how dangerously influential it can be on young men. The projected web images, the gamer set up of screens, laptops and controllers, accompanied by lit faces of the audience by their phone screens and text tones was a perfect way to visually present the chaotic, overflowing mess of information the internet holds; how uncontrollable words are when being typed on a screen and sent to every device in the country. The unnatural situation of having your phone on throughout a performance (not on silent even) was weirdly misplaced but felt quite liberating with the amount of freedom we were given in this chat. We could say whatever we wanted, and this illustrated exactly how the internet is! As an audience member, it already encourages you into the mindset of those described: the mindless trolls who say what they want and post what they can to insight a fiery debate of ideals.
Despite knowing the group chat aided this narrative purpose, when I received certain messages bringing these fictional anecdotes to life, I was still scared. Because I was still receiving it on my own phone in my hand. It’s hard not to feel targeted and it really brought about a realisation of the serious nature of websites only three clicks away. It was undeniably an enlightening experience that I feel is necessary to anyone. Given the relevance of the subject of radicalisation discussed and the easiness of access to extreme content, it’s exceptionally informative and important to watch.