Theatre Review: F. Off, Underbelly - Cowgate, Edinburgh

A group of young people attempt to put Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg on trial in an exuberantly farcical courtroom which (the script admits) has been “cobbled together from half-remembered TV cliches”.

F.Off is a Big Short-style medley of frightening factuality and wild comedy
F.Off is a Big Short-style medley of frightening factuality and wild comedy

F. Off, Underbelly - Cowgate, Edinburgh * * *

Social networks are explained using the stenographer’s knitting wool, and magic tricks teach us about data harvesting.

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However, while sparky humour coupled with the energy and talent of the 13-strong cast from the National Youth Theatre make F. Off enormously entertaining, this sits somewhat uncomfortably with the fact that it is also packed with real (and worrying) information.

Tatty Hennessy’s script, written after workshops with the young people, interweaves the “trial” with two other plotlines: a Labour candidate running in a Tory heartland who turns to a couple of data analytics nerds to improve her chances, and the candidate’s daughter who embarks on a disastrous hook-up with a boy she met online.

These scenarios do their job, but they lack the anarchic energy and astute observations of the trial, the outcome of which is still more interesting. There seems little doubt in anyone’s mind that Facebook has shirked its responsibilities, but few of us will delete our profiles as a result, making us at least partially complicit in the system we’re denouncing.

Until 25 August