Stage review: The Agony & Ecstasy Of Steve Jobs

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STAGE
The Agony And Ecstasy Of Steve Jobs
Waterloo East Theatre
★★✩✩✩

IN A NUTSHELL
An interesting and important exploration of the exploitation of Chinese workers by Western technology firms loses its way.

REVIEW
Writer and activist Mike Daisey has something very important to say about the link between slave labour in China and our addiction to technological catnip provided by Apple and its spiritual leader Steve Jobs.

His is a mission, a quest, an unrestrained fury. But Daisey wisely subsumes his desire to hector and gives his words to an actor - in this case Edward Fromson.

With discipline restraining his demagoguery, writer and actor begin well, painting pictures of a visit to a phone hacker, creating characters who strip down a MacBook for fun.

It is witty and sharp and they take us with him. All the way to Foxconn, the disturbing Chinese manufacturer of the iPhone where 430,000 inhabit a vast, silent plant, living, working and, often, killing themselves, within its heavily-guarded perimeter.

Bright Chinese youngsters, with degrees, who have escaped their fishing villages, consign themselves to this perilous workhouse. Here, they make iPhones by hand - cheaper than machines - and some inhale the neurotoxins until they're finished at 25.

Then writer Daisey loses it. He cannot help himself. He is just so mad (rightly so). He dumps the theatrical experience, the characters, the portraits, the wit and starts with the lecture.

It doesn't help that the performer, Edward Fromson, sits at a desk and reads mostly from a script (a virus, we're told, wiping out rehearsal time).

He can do the actorly bits but polemics and passion are beyond him.

He steps gingerly from one line to the next, utterly lacking in confidence, not sure if he should be crescendo or diminuendo so settling for a soft, soporific newscaster drone that just, well, peters out.

Until Feb 23, waterlooeast.co.uk.

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