Hacktivists – Review

In a disused portacabin, the school geeks, nerds and computer-savvy have created the Hackerspace: an IT suite in which they have the freedom to be themselves and to carry out harmless cyber activities.  When they are humiliated by the school bully, new girl, Beth, inspires the group to use technology to avenge him.  The subsequent divide highlights the ethics of hacking and the dilemmas of social media – timely issues.

Hacktivists is a dark comedy that explores the delicate balance between freedom of information and invasion of privacy. It is also a play about friendship and loyalty – and standing up for what you believe in.

It is an ensemble piece, directed by Christie O’Carroll, in which most of the cast are on the – same – set most of the time.  Writer, Ben Ockrent’s words are confidently and thoughtfully delivered by the Lyceum Youth Theatre group, with none of the over-acting that can affect amateurs when a play is more about words than action.  All of the characters are recognisable without falling into stereotypes, and there are the all-important moments of humour too.

There are a lot of characters to take in, and we get their real names as well as their hacker titles.  That, added to the fact they are all dressed in identical school uniform, makes it something of a challenge to get to grips with who is who, but that’s a minor quibble.  The audience was enthusiastic, and it was a pleasure to see these young actors in action.

Hacktivists was presented in a double-bill with rehearsed readings from the Traverse Theatre Scribble Group – a definite bonus.  Scribble is a play-writing and theatre skills programme for 15-18 year olds.  This season, professional playwright Ellie Stewart leads the writers in turning their original scripts into mini plays.  The talent is evident here too.  From a ghost trying to haunt her ex-boyfriend (Alex and Harry, by Archie Fisher) and a boy abandoned on the motorway (Olive Jar, by Samuel Pearson) to the delivery of a decapitated head (Head in the Family, by Max McLachlan) and the adventures of a packet of crisps (Crinkle Cut Dreams, by Mel Rozel Brayford), these scripts are thoughtful, quirky and humorous.

These performances were at the Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh. Hacktivists will appear at the Lyceum Theatre as part of the National Theatre Connections, in June 2015.  See www.lyceum.org.uk for further information.

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