- Alice Duboin
Review - Brilliant Jerks
Updated: Mar 7
Southwark Playhouse - Borough
Booking until 25th March 2023
Writer: Joseph Charlton
Director: Katie-Ann McDonough
Set and costume design: Hazel Low
Brilliant Jerks by Joseph Charlton, writer of the award-winning ANNA X, offers a glimpse of an unfiltered, crude, and snappy reality behind the phone icon that we are familiar with. It explores the toxic work environment and the sad reality faced by one of the app's drivers.
The play is performed by three excellent actors on a really well used, minimalist round staging, providing a greater view of the actors and immersiveness of the environment. Kiran Sonia Sawar, who plays three main characters and a few supporting roles, is an exceptional performer and subtly portrays a range of emotions, including resentment, disillusion, sadness, anger, and sweetness. Sawar’s portrayal of Mia, a vulnerable female driver, fantastically showcases drivers’ vulnerability, their lack of protection and the fact that they are often forced to accept jobs just to keep themselves afloat. Shubham Saraf’s performances are always on target in a twisted way and his body language and tone matching both that of a predatory manager and a CEO from his ascent to downfall. Sean (Sean Delaney) is a naive engineer flung into the unknown world. Delaney’s performance is delicate, quiet, and accurately portrays his character. However, his characters are passively putting up with the reality of Silicon Valley; therefore, Sean doesn't really get a chance to show the full range of his talent.
The play covers a decade of history from the app's genesis to its omnipresence in our lives. The script is well-crafted and it makes the audience laugh, empathise, and renders us speechless. Furthermore, the story is a fast-paced chain of events that exposes a long list of human sins and unacceptable behaviours. Over the course of the story, Sean’s colleague, Amy (also played by Sawar), learns about betrayal, discrimination, misogyny and the glass ceiling that prevent her from succeeding despite the fact that she is better at the job than Sean.
Even though the creatives capitalise on thr strengths of the script and directions, the costume designs would have benefited from more diversity among the various characters. While it is appreciated that there may be limited options and budget, the performers take on many and sometimes contrasting roles, and the production would have benefited from more varied costumes among these characters, such as Mia the taxi driver and the wife of the company CEO. Despite this, Sarwar is able to make use of different accents to distinguish the various characters she plays, circumventing the lack of physical and costume distinction of her roles.
Brilliant Jerks is a well-written play that explores the dark side of Silicon Valley's culture. The play is a powerful reminder that there is still a lot to do in terms of basic human rights and respects in our society. It's a must-see for anyone interested in the tech industry or those who are curious about the reality behind our daily-used apps and the effect they can have on people's lives. After the last bloodcurdling line, the audience is left with a lot to think about and it's unlikely that they'll be tempted to use the app for a ride home afterwards.