One of the final week VAULT shows is Brilliant Jerks. We love a bit of social commentary, and love even more theatre that tackles the 'bad guys'. We spoke to the guys behind Brilliant Jerks all about their Uber fairytale.
What drove you to make Brilliant Jerks?
About 18 months ago I was writing about Uber for the i newspaper, where I work part-time, and the driver I interviewed for the column was a woman. She was the first female driver I'd spoken to. The column was about pay and work conditions for drivers, but after speaking to her, and then reading what she’d written about driving for Uber, I got interested in the kind of character that does a job like that. It’s both quite social and lonely. There’s also brilliant scope for odd and unexpected meetings in a cab, and one of the things this driver really emphasised is what an intimate space a car is - especially for strangers. So my initial idea was for quite a personal story about a woman driving for the company, but then I got in to researching the upper echelons of the company - the world of the coders, the middle management, and the CEO - and how that whole huge hierarchy fits together. Or doesn’t, really - one of the amazing things about companies of those size is just how fractal they are. The constituents are almost barely aware of one another, which is one of the company's big problems, I'd venture.
Who is Brilliant Jerks for?
People looking for a laugh and a relatively gripping story, hopefully. It touches on some serious stuff as well hopefully - the tech sector, corporate responsibility, office sexism - but principally we’re trying to make it entertaining, funny, a good story, hopefully a bit moving.
Of all the dodgy companies, why Uber?
Uber isn’t a terrible company through and through but it certainly has a lot to answer for. It’s an astounding, fairly irresistible product which has genuinely changed the way a lot of people live, for better or worse. I’m in love with the contradictions posed by it: lots of us (me included/principally) virtue-signal hatred for Uber, but then use it frequently because it feels too inconvenient not to. In total honesty, I love the design of its interface, its staggering convenience, and the ephemeral relationship it offers to strangers weekend after weekend. I actually use Uber quite a lot - my own rule is to tip every driver at least two pounds. That temporarily salves the conscience, anyway.
If you had to make a new show, what CURRENT news story would you like to make a show about?
Not that current, but probably something about McDonald’s. Again, I actually quite like business and company stories - and I like products that we signal disapproval of but can’t help using or eating. That hypocrisy is quite appealing.
What theatre ‘turn offs’ do you have?
This is pretty much my first proper run of something I’ve written so I’m not in a position to slag anything else off at this point, I think. I don't really like plays that are like big long dreams that don't make any sense. They reinforces the already quite strong consensus that plays are for wankers.
What was the last show that moved you to action?
I honestly don’t think one ever has. Which probably means I don't see enough. I would always, perhaps shallowly, want to see something that entertains first. I’m preoccupied enough with train prices, Richard Branson, the contradictions of the Labour party (etc etc) enough in my own time. Nina Raine's Tiger Country really put the challenges faced by the NHS into perspective though. I thought that was an amazing play.
What shows at VAULT are you looking forward to?
A lot. Like the sound of Finding Fassbender by Lydia Larson. Liam Williams’ comedy show. Tumulus by Christopher Adams. SPARKS which is directed by Jess Edwards. Looking forward to finally seeing Maggie Thatcher Queen of Soho by Jon Brittain as Rotterdam is one of my favourite plays. And I really, really like the sound of Follow Suit.
Brilliant Jerks is on from 14-18 March (the last week of VAULT!)