Brilliant Jerks at Vaults, London, review: An exhilarating Uber-inspired ride through the modern workplace

While never named, the taxi-hailing app has clearly inspired Joseph Charlton’s fast-paced new play

Kaleem Aftab
Saturday 17 March 2018 10:24
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Joseph Charlton's play Brilliant Jerks at Vaults in London
Joseph Charlton's play Brilliant Jerks at Vaults in London

Journeying between trips in Manchester, conferences in Las Vegas and karaoke bars in Seoul, the acerbic, fast-paced Brilliant Jerks is an exhilarating ride through the modern workplace and the blurred, almost indistinguishable intersection between public and private spaces.

This is the story of a Silicon Valley start-up that has created an application to hail cabs. Writer Joseph Charlton never names the company, even though it’s clearly Uber, because his interest is not in whether the taxi-hire application should be allowed to exist but in an environment that celebrates machismo while fostering systematic sexism, institutional racism and bullying. It could be anytime, anyplace and anywhere on the planet.

In the 1980s David Mamet pictured this type of company in a New York real estate office packed with the guys. But the modern digital workplace is not a single location and co-workers can exist in many different environments without ever crossing paths, where women have a place (less financially) as well as men.

Mia (Mona Goodwin) sees her job driving as a way to earn a living in Manchester and the maternal recovering addict is happy that she joined the company when drivers collected 80 rather than 75 per cent of the fare. Sean (Donal Gallery) is a sincere gay Irish techie excited by the prospect of working for a dynamic company that wants to innovate smartphone technology and programming language. Tyler (Luke Thompson) is an entrepreneur who on a celebratory night out in Paris comes up with the idea for a taxi app and meets the girl of his dreams.

The three actors do a tremendous job in their own primary roles representing the different walks of company life: the working class manual labourer on a freelance zero-hour contract, the middle-class employee whose work is rewarded with huge bonuses and the glorified CEO who basks in the glory of the rising stock value. The actors are equally good when they switch guises to appear as prominent supporting characters in the other story strands. As the play unfolds, the private lives of each of the principal characters becomes a problem in their workplace and quickly the joys of their new jobs begin to crumble into personal turmoil.

Credit must also go to director Rosy Banham for ensuring that the various location changes and the actors moving between parts are so seamless without the use of props or sets, instead, there are some excellent bits of lighting and a justifiable faith that the storytelling aspect of the monologues will suffice. It feels authentic and Charlton gives us much to chew over before using our smartphones to catch a taxi home.

Playing until Sunday 18 March, vaultfestival.com

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