Reviewed – 14th August 2019
“Not only does ‘F. Off’ talk about issues, it lays them out for you, right in front of your face”
The National Youth Theatre has been the home of the best young talent in the country, and ‘F.Off’ demonstrates this in spades. It is an interactive theatrical gem, putting Facebook’s creator Mark Zuckerberg on trial in front of the people. Well, Zuckerberg doesn’t actually make an appearance, but an excitable audience member takes his place. The play exposes the disturbing truth behind algorithms, social media and politics. Did you know that the average person shares 27,000 pieces of data on their profile? Did you know that you can be tracked even if you don’t use Facebook? All of these facts bubble to the surface through improvised interactions with audience members. Masterful directorial decisions are made in this piece, (Paul Roseby and Meghan Doyle) such as asking a viewer if they can look on their Facebook page in real time and tell the audience what information it gives away. Not only does ‘F. Off’ talk about issues, it lays them out for you, right in front of your face.
The stage design (Libby Todd) captures the central metaphor of the play, as said in one of the first lines of text: ‘Why build a net unless you want to catch something?’. The stage has a bare frame, covered in blue netting that ensnares various props as the drama progresses. Every detail, from the set to the direction, has been thoroughly thought-through and has a clear purpose.
There is potential for a show on this topic to become preachy and overly-didactic. However, the three main storylines display the effects of the internet in a variety of ways: through a political campaign, the effect the campaign has on the politician’s child, and the courtroom itself. The ensemble is strong in terms of characterisation and movement (Tim Jackson). Stylised physical theatre sections move the action along between scenes, building a sense of growing momentum. Amelia Braithwaite’s performance of the politician’s daughter is of particular note as she portrays the typical adolescent struggle of trying to fit in, with authenticity and nuance. The ensemble uses music for comedic effect, keeping in line with the tongue-in-cheek tone used throughout. A highlight of this is their adaption of Stevie Wonder’s classic anthem ‘Superstition’, with new lyrics about reading the ‘Terms and Conditions’, as a viewer signs away their freedom.
‘F. Off’ tows the line between informative content and comedic delivery, while remaining attentive to the quality of the storytelling. This piece of theatre should be viewed with no less validity and merit than the adult shows produced by the same company. I can’t wait to see what this bunch of budding actors goes on to do next.
Reviewed by Emily Morris
Underbelly Cowgate until 25th August as part of Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2019