How we do work in the modern era? This is the age of start-ups and the gig economy. The rich get richer. The poor get poorer. One good idea and an IPO are the ingredients of the modern-day rags-to-riches tale. Entrepreneur and executive, Tyler enlists Sean to be a programmer on a ride-sharing app which Mia ends up driving for. Throughout the play, we explore the ways in which a business of this magnitude can be influenced and corrupted by its employees and in turn, violate them. Is the greatest travesty the toxic work culture that can accompany these fraternizing firms or is the greatest travesty that they so successfully convince their freelance workers of the freedom of their expendable jobs? These quandaries and more are explored in the Southwark Playhouse production of Joseph Charlton's Brilliant Jerks.
Joseph Charlton's play, originally written in 2018, is well-intentioned though slow and predictable. The production is performed in the round with a trio of actors who take on a variety of roles. The costume design and lighting are simple and unbothered by the need to convey a change of character or setting.
We know the argument of the piece from the onset and with recent popular programmes like WeCrashed, we can assume much of what follows in the 90-minute show. The real problem with the script is its lack of depth and nuance, gliding over complexity in favor of the obvious and comedic.
The performances in the piece are strong. Kiran Sonia Sawar masterfully flips between the accents and personalities of her multiple roles, and has some truly grounded emotional scenes as Mia. Sean Delaney's Sean is sometimes filmic, but always truthful, unforced. Shubham Saraf's Tyler is well crafted, immediately signalling the kind of repressed, ambitious, morally corruptible leader we've come to laugh at, be fascinated by, and ultimately judge. Saraf succumbs to oversentimentality and a bit of preciousness towards the end, uncharacteristic of his deep talents, by squeezing out more meaning and pertinence than is actually there on the page. Nevertheless, Brilliant Jerks reminds us all of the complicated nature of the job landscape today. Hopefully inspiring its audience to question the costs of progress and innovation at the expense of decency and care.
it runs until 25 March.
Review: Matthew Pierce Photo: Nick Rutter