RIDE A WILD APP
In a week when tech firms shuddered at the shock demise of their favourite bank, how better to spend 90 minutes withJoseph Charlton’s exhilarating, fast moving 3-hander about a guy who has a sharp idea for a ride-hailing app, its rocket-powered ascension, and the effect on him and thousands across 653 world cities before hubris and bro-culture clips his wings. Let it be said that when it first showed pre-Covid, Uber had the humour to send a works outing to it…
Katie-Ann McDonough’s direction is swift, the three players switching between a dozen roles: Shubham Saraf, a striking presence in a narrow suit and boxfresh trainers, plays Tyler the initial entrepreneur and Craig, the Brentoid manager who is fraternal yet creepy with the men, and dismissively awful to the women coders (“its awesome how confident you are not to wear make-up”, etc). Sean Delaney plays among others a pleasanter, but lost-soul Irish coder drawn half unwillingly into the macho culture and its ridiculous work trip to Vegas. Charlton’s ear for excitable startup language gets immense laughs – the “champion mindset”, “super-pumped, hashtag wrangling microservices out of a monolith”, all that. The titular jerks by the way are the wheeler-dealing frat boys, clever toddler-heads with money to juggle and a taste for lowlife highlife in Korean cathouses
Hazel Lowe’s design is a table in the shape of the company logo, which nicely indicates by a curved funfair slope the likelihood of downturns and pratfalls. It is equally useful to represent the Glasgow taxi in which Mia – a recovering alcoholic who gave up her baby, reflects on the energies and moods of diverse customers, often hungover sesh-heds requiring “bargain bucket therapy” in the dawn. She is a reminder of what Tyler, creator and CEO, furiously reminds the board finally removing him after “reputational” issues arise : I had, he says, “the responsibility of giving work to people who thought they’d never work again” – migrants, mothers, people on working life’s precarious edges. And so he did. Though near the end we see Mia and the other uber drivers taking their case to court to be treated like the useful faithful workhorses they are.
It’s entertaining and thought provoking, and all three players take on diverse roles with neatly elegant distinctiveness. But a particular hurrah to absolutely top work from Kiran Sonia Sawar – who is in turn Mia the Glasgow cabbie, a neurodivergent coding genius in the office, a torch-singer who falls for Tyler and then turns round to condemn his behaviour to the board, and a stern Indian businesswoman taking him on. She shines, warm and moving and harsh and weird and tough by turns.
But there is youthful exhilaration in the defeated Tyler’s final shout – “let builders build, let progress happen”. And you think yes, thats how it goes. The wild gamblers build with glee and sometimes recklessly, then prudent duller people thwart and tame them. Both must happen to make the world roll on. Love it.
To 25 March. Southwarkplayhouse.co.uk
Mon-sat. Nb matinees tues & sat