Privacy – reviews of Donmar's 'topical' big data drama

Apr 24, 2014

'Fascinating' new drama exploring digital surveillance will provoke much needed debate, say critics

Johan Persson

What you need to know
A new drama about digital surveillance, Privacy, has opened at the Donmar Warehouse, London. Josie Rourke directs the play by James Graham, best known for his hit political drama The House.

Privacy is a theatrical collage drawing on verbatim interviews with politicians and journalists in the wake of the Edward Snowden NSA revelations. It explores the way governments and corporations collect and use our personal information, and the price we pay as individuals and a society. Runs until 31 May. 

What the critics like
"If ever a play spoke directly to our own times it is surely James Graham's Privacy," says Charles Spencer in the Daily Telegraph. And the great surprise is that despite its weighty subject matter it is light on its feet, funny, touching and downright scary. 

Graham's endlessly fascinating new play offers a "busy, rich, adrenaline-fuelled evening", says Michael Billington in The Guardian. It is cleverly directed, well acted and urgently topical.

The serious issues - selfies, phone hacking, big data, online dating and spyware - are "deftly discussed and imaginatively illustrated", says Aleks Sierz on Arts Desk. There's some lovely moments of interaction with the audience, and a lot of hilarity.

What they don't like
This enjoyable evening will trigger fierce discussions but it somehow "short-circuited the crucial debate about how we guarantee a measure of privacy in the digital age", says Michael Billington in the Guardian. We get soundbites from politicians and libertarians, but no real intellectual tussle between those who see our essential privacy as under threat and those who argue that this is the price we pay for security.

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