If Industry and The Lehman Trilogy reveal the human stories behind the city’s financial megaliths, Joseph Charlton’s slick and capacious telling of the rise and partial fall of Uber’s empire gives us a similar window into the world of corporate tech startups. A dextrous, fast-paced writing style, rich medley of themes, and three standout performances make for a thought-provoking exploration that hits at the heart of an app we’ve all used — and potentially questioned the ethics of.

Ex-addict and Uber driver Mia (Kiran Sonia Sawar) begins her tale of ‘miracles’, ‘chance’ and ‘driving’, setting the scene for a style of interwoven monologue and dialogue that deftly introduces a cast of supporting characters from passengers to partners to board members. Against this, talented coder Sean begins a new job at a tech startup, replete with all the perks of money, banana hammocks and the prospect of a glimmering future. Played with a firm and steady hand by Sean Delaney, it’s not long before his complex thinking and communication skills (as well as his boyish good looks) are noticed by the management, and CEO Tyler (Shubham Saraf) steps into the frame. Bromance ensues — underpinned by a strong homoerotic edge. This combines with a fraternal culture to create a toxically misogynistic environment where the passionate, hyper-focussed Amy is overlooked largely because she is a woman. Such a failure of the ‘culture’ is, fortunately, one avoided by this production, with Sawar’s grounded, fluid performance centring Mia’s multifaceted story, and, with her smaller roles, shining a light on the harm that corporate sexism can do.

Saraf’s Tyler is cocky, slippery, and charming. He sees the potential in Sean’s idea for a new app and makes it fly. But he’s also an egotist and an enabler, unable to see beyond the figures that justify his success and happy to dismiss the voices of his female staff and partner. The one moment where Sean and Tyler get up onto the circular logo table at the centre of the stage reflects a moment of lifting — when an idea is so clear and perfect that it just comes to us, putting us in touch with something greater than ourselves. This sense of scale and ambition isn’t attacked — simply set against the impact on people actively excluded from its glory.

Brilliant Jerks explores how relationships and identity suffuse our working lives, and how the machinations of tech and money are bound up in the fabric of who we are. The inclusion of the driver’s perspective draws together the newsworthy big-business insider narrative with a more tender, frail and heart-wrenching story of simply getting by. It’s certainly an ambitious challenge, but one pulled off with both a detailed journalistic edge and dramatic flare.

Minimal use of props and a functional set bring into focus the writing and performance — highlighting the skill of the creative team. The performers are totally in line with the text, and some moments of clever directing from Katie-Ann McDonough bring into focus the moral conflict of Sean in particular. The only aspect I struggled with at times was the sheer number of roles played by each actor — though simple indicators of costume and accent were able to differentiate these for the most part. It’s a quick, broad-reaching story with a lot to stay, and doesn’t always wait for you to catch up.

Despite this minor gripe, the production is an incredibly capable realisation of a thought-provoking, real and important story that many will feel strongly about. It’s intelligent and sensitively handled — a remarkable achievement and truly a play for our times.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Read all of George’s reviews here

{🎟 AD – PR invite – Tickets were gifted in exchange for an honest review}

2 Star Review 3 Star Review 4 Star Review 5 Star Review 2022 2023 Adaptation Almeida Cabaret Camden Fringe Cast Announcement Christmas Comedy Dance Drag Edinburgh Fringe Edinburgh Fringe Interviews Fringe Immersive Interviews Jukebox Musical LGBTQIA+ Lyric Hammersmith Manchester Musical New Musical News New Wimbledon Theatre North West Off West End Park Theatre Play Review Revival Richmond Theatre Round Up Royal Court Theatre Shakespeare Show Announcement Show Recommendations Soho Theatre Southwark Playhouse Touring Production VAULT Festival West End

    The infamous Sh!t Faced Showtime are back in London with a festive edition, they have taken Dickens’ classic and put a drunken spin on it. The formula is the same as other iterations of the Shi!t Faced shows, one member of the cast has been boozing, and this time it is John Milton who plays Scrooge. Before the show, half a bottle of Jim Beam, some wine, and beer have been consumed in the previous 4 hours. The rest of the cast, try to keep the show on track, also aided by James Murfitt as the compere, Charles Dickens. The … More A PISSEDMAS CAROL – REVIEW – LEICESTER SQUARE
    Spine-tingling yet heart-warming, Mark Gatiss’s retelling of A Christmas Carol truly encapsulates the haunting atmosphere of a Victorian ghost story, balanced out with enough humour so as to capture the festive season. Led by Keith Allen as Scrooge, with Peter Forbes as Marley, this show is perfect for Christmas viewing. The set design by Paul Wills is instantly captivating, containing stacks of metal cabinets towering over the theatre, moveable by the cast to allow space for other central props like doors, beds and tables. In addition to this, the puppetry design by Matthew Forbes is incredibly clever, adding creepy elements to the show such … More A CHRISTMAS CAROL – REVIEW – ALEXANDRA PALACE
    The title of this winner of Theatre 503’s 2023 International Playwriting Award by Roxy Cook may seem like the set-up to a joke, but the narrative that unspools is instead an affectionate, gently barbed and at base quite sobering portrait of three ordinary souls (and one restless feline) adrift in modern Moscow. There is much affable, satirical back-and-forth commentary on the accepted myths & stereotypes of the Russian spirit & soul. Beset by the indignities of age, opportunism, graft, fatigue, the characters orbit one another, doomed to play out their roles in an unjust, predatory and saturnine universe. The play opens … More A WOMAN WALKS INTO A BANK – REVIEW – THEATRE503
    Peter Pan Goes Wrong first premiered in London at the Pleasance Theatre in 2013, and earlier this year the show made its Broadway debut. Now the production is back in the West End for the Christmas season. Following on from The Play That Goes Wrong, in this production, J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan is staged by the fictitious Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society and goes awry, disastrously so. The meta-comedy is filled with slapstick comedy, sometimes the humour may be predictable and silly, but it’s universally funny throughout – there is something for everyone here, and the laughs come thick and fast … More PETER PAN GOES WRONG – REVIEW – LYRIC THEATRE
    Drawing heavily from the classic canon of the British supernatural, HighTide’s trio of contemporary Gothic narratives uses traditional storytelling formats to address contemporary themes. Directed by Elayce Ismail, reverent musical interludes accompany tales of apparitions and nighttime conjurings that speak of women from the East of England. Unfortunately, the effect is less chilling and more lightweight, with conventional structures, predictable plot twists and an over-reliance on external forces to drive narrative shoring up some of the less relatable aspects of the genre. Nicola Werenowska’s The Beach House, perhaps the cleanest of the three tales, tells of a mother and daughter’s … More GHOST STORIES BY CANDLELIGHT – REVIEW – SAM WANAMAKER PLAYHOUSE

Leave a Reply