Review – The Agony And Ecstasy Of Steve Jobs Revisited

Aug 3 2013 | By More

✭✭✭✭✩  Biting the Apple

Gilded Balloon Teviot, Venue 14 Wed 31 July – Mon 26 August 2013

Is this a play or a TED Talk re-enacted? It is a compliment both to the quality of the writing by American monologist Mike Daisey and to the performance by Scottish actor Grant O’Rourke that it is so easy to forget that it is the former.

But it is a question which also brings about its own contradictions.

Grant O'Rourke in The Agony and Ecstasy of Steve Jobs. Photo: Gilded Balloon

Grant O’Rourke in The Agony and Ecstasy of Steve Jobs Revisited. Photo: Gilded Balloon

Presented from the perspective of a self-confessed Apple addict, it is a credit to this controversial script that it is not so tied up in potential litigation action by the electronics giant as to prevent it ever from being performed.

Because while he begins by explaining why he loves all things Apple and gives a hugely entertaining potted history of the company, the story later develops a darker edge.

This is following Daisey’s visit to what, for him, should have been The Garden Of Eden — the Chinese city of Shenzhen. It is the location of the massive factory park of the Foxconn company where Apple products are assembled. And which estimates suggest employs between 230,000 and 450,000 workers.

It is in Shenzhen that Daisey’s taste for the brand took on a bitter twist – and that from this point the play takes on a style similar to an expose by the British comedian and journalist, Mark Thomas.

Workers reveal that 12 hour days, six days a week are the norm and the pressure to work even longer hours to meet targets builds each time Apple launches a product upgrade.

And it is said that this pressure led so many workers to throw themselves from the roof of the factory building that the company installed safety nets. It’s also claimed the company has since instigated another tactic to reduce the suicide rate among its employees. Those identified as being a high risk are now sacked before they become another of ‘their’ statistics.

The play is not without its controversy.

You have to take care wording such statements. Because the play – a version of which was first performed on radio in the US in 2010 – is not without its controversy. Not least because Daisey has been challenged on the veracity of some of his claims.

As the show title now denotes, the current script has been revisited to clarify points and counter some of the criticism and is now different to the version which proved popular at last year’s Fringe.

The challenge for O’Rourke is to take a script which is so well-crafted that it could be a transcript of a talk by Mike Daisey and then make it sound like these are his own words. In a hugely convincing and riveting performance he does just that, for the most part.

Marcus Roche’s direction occasionally allows O’Rourke to stray into being actory – a slightly too emotional outburst here, a too obvious dramatic pause for reflection there. It would have made a great performance even more special if these acting devices didn’t remind you it was a theatrical performance you were attending – and not a TED Talk.

There is still plenty to think about as it is; the audience is given a leaflet containing suggestions for anyone moved to take further action following what they’ve heard.

The irony is that so many will have immediately Tweeted, blogged and posted well-deserved recommendations for their friends to go see this one — using their iPhones.

Running time 1 hour
Run ends Monday 26 August 2013
Gilded Balloon, Teviot Row House, 13 Bristo Square, EH8 9AJ (Venue 14)
Daily (not Tue 13 Aug) at 4.15pm
Tickets from:


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