The hacking saga takes to the stage

Plays based on the intercepted voicemails of volunteers will question our notions of privacy, says Alice Jones

It was only a matter of time – and pin numbers.

Tomorrow, at Theatre503 in south London, the hacking scandal makes its stage debut in a series of plays inspired by the voicemails of volunteers. A group of journalists, theatre staff and audience members have sacrificed their privacy to the dramatic cause, allowing the theatre to listen in to their messages. Once hacked, the names on the messages were scrambled and the transcripts handed out to a group of six playwrights to craft a 10-minute piece of theatre each. Their only instruction: don't let the truth get in the way of a good story.

This is not verbatim theatre in the mould of Alecky Blythe's London Road, rather the sextet – who know only the age, gender and profession of their subjects – have used the material as the jumping-off point for a range of stories. Some are romantic, inspired by the long, lovelorn messages left by an ex-boyfriend; some work the tapestry of workaday monologues – from a parent, a doctor's receptionist or a colleague – into an impressionistic portrait of modern man; and some touch on the media scandal itself.

"What you get is a glimpse into every aspect of the person's life but of course what you lack is any kind of context. You get messages from a mum saying 'Happy Birthday' but you also get those messages that say, 'Hi, give me a call, bye.' That frees you up to use your imagination," says Derek Bond, associate director of the theatre and chief hacker. "We're not looking for factual recreations of somebody's life. It's a stimulus, a glimpse through the window of their soul. And then you have to get creative and fill in the gaps."

Which is to say, there is more than a little dramatic licence about the project. Having willingly offered up their pin numbers (unlike the real-life victims), it must have been tempting for volunteers to delete the boring or embarrassing messages or even to ask friends to leave more inspiring offerings. One volunteer only managed one missed call, says Bond. "We said, 'Don't delete any messages and we'll try again in a couple of days'. They'd summoned up a few more by then."

Glib or not, the project probes how it feels to discover that you've been hacked, and where the boundaries between public and private lie. The writers have taken these one-sided conversations and embroidered them to their own ends: the volunteers, in contrast, have no voice, nor right of reply. And for audience members, aware that the plays they're watching are the result of an underhand creative process, it's an opportunity to question their complicity in the hacking debacle.

The anonymous hackees cover a range of backgrounds and ages, and the playwrights include Ben Ellis (who recently contributed to Rupert Goold's Decade cycle), Shunt associate Marcelo Dos Santos and Dominic Cavendish, theatre critic for The Daily Telegraph, a line-up in keeping with the theatre's commitment to emerging talent. The Olivier-winning The Mountaintop had its world premiere in the above-the-pub space and the theatre has previously nurtured playwrights such as Jack Thorne, Mike Bartlett and Morgan Lloyd-Malcolm on their way to the West End.

Hacked is the latest in a line of experimental projects including Decade (10 playwrights riff on a different year of the Noughties), Coalition (which paired playwrights with creatives from other fields, such as music, art and dance, to make work inspired by the new Government;) and PLAYlist (a series of plays about songs). "The music can be anything but the play has to be as long as or shorter than the piece which inspired it," explains Bond. "It's an opportunity to mix experienced writers with emerging talents who have never had their work produced before." Meanwhile, as journalists furiously type out their future bestsellers on the scandal and Hollywood casts around for the perfect fiery redhead to play Rebekah Brooks, theatre has proved the speediest to respond, beating all the other art forms to the scoop.

'Hacked', Theatre 503, London SW11 (020 7978 7040; Tuesday to 4 October

Arts and Entertainment
Reawakening: can Jon Hamm’s Don Draper find enlightenment in the final ‘Mad Men’?
tv reviewNot quite, but it's an enlightening finale for Don Draper spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Breakfast Show’s Nick Grimshaw

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
'Youth' cast members Paul Dano, Jane Fonda, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, and Michael Caine pose for photographers at Cannes Film Festival
Arts and Entertainment
Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward and Robin in the 1960s Batman TV show

Arts and Entertainment
I am flute: Azeem Ward and his now-famous instrument
Arts and Entertainment
A glass act: Dr Chris van Tulleken (left) and twin Xand get set for their drinking challenge
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
MIA perform at Lovebox 2014 in London Fields, Hackney

Arts and Entertainment
Finnish punk band PKN hope to enter Eurovision 2015 and raise awareness for Down's Syndrome

Arts and Entertainment
William Shakespeare on the cover of John Gerard's The Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes

Arts and Entertainment

Game of Thrones review
Arts and Entertainment
Grayson Perry dedicates his Essex home to Julie

Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treat

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the original Swedish version of the sci-fi TV drama ‘Real Humans’
Arts and Entertainment
Hugh Keays-Byrne plays Immortan Joe, the terrifying gang leader, in the new film
filmActor who played Toecutter returns - but as a different villain in reboot
Arts and Entertainment
Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road
Arts and Entertainment
Jessica Hynes in W1A
tvReview: Perhaps the creators of W1A should lay off the copy and paste function spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Power play: Mitsuko Uchida in concert

Arts and Entertainment
Dangerous liaisons: Dominic West, Jake Richard Siciliano, Maura Tierney and Leya Catlett in ‘The Affair’ – a contradictory drama but one which is sure to reel the viewers in
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Herring, pictured performing at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival two years ago
Arts and Entertainment
Music freak: Max Runham in the funfair band
Arts and Entertainment
film 'I felt under-used by Hollywood'
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study

    One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
    From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

    Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

    'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
    'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

    Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

    This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

    Songs from the bell jar

    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
    How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

    One man's day in high heels

    ...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
    The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

    King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

    The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

    End of the Aussie brain drain

    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
    Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

    Can meditation be bad for you?

    Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
    Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

    Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

    Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
    Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

    Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

    Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
    Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

    Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

    Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
    Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

    Join the tequila gold rush

    The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
    12 best statement wallpapers

    12 best statement wallpapers

    Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
    Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

    Paul Scholes column

    Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?