Andrew Maddock’s Data, as part of the Illuminate Festival at New Wimbledon Studio, is an intriguing, if unsatisfying piece. A three hander about data mining should have a lot to say but it leaves the audience unsatisfied.
The positives are the performances. I particularly enjoyed Helena Doughty as Rachel, a 21 year old Campaign Manager who uses her contact in Gareth (Sam Ducane) to mine information so she can do an extensive mail and email charity appeal. She is also dealing with her nan, Bev (Jean Wall) who is a victim of these incessant phone calls from charity, though her reluctance to stop them makes that debatable. I also really liked Phil Croft’s direction on the intimate space, especially during the scenes where the characters interacted though the monologues aren’t weak. The characters entirely realistic and well written, meant the poor ending disappointed. The lighting, which I don’t usually notice, was absolutely stunning.
The issue Data and how it is used is very topical. James Graham tackled it in Privacy at the Donmar and didn’t do a great job because for a play about data and privacy to work it needs to educate and explain but also provide a high stakes narrative so the audience care. I didn’t care for Privacy and I wasn’t given the opportunity to care for Data.
Sadly the narrative we get is filler and the education pretty obvious (Telephone Preference and Mail Preference Services are mentioned a lot), a lot of filler for a play that is 55 minutes long. I even had to ask a fellow audience member if it had ended, despite a curtain bow, but there were so many loose ends and audience members (presumably in shock at how short was) remaining that it felt a little chaotic.
There’s dementia, alcoholism, education, class, paedophiles and possibly a dead child but none of this gets concluded. Even this morning I woke up wandering “but why was that bit about her birthday so significant!” It is incredibly frustrating. Data puts three very good actors and performances to waste.
If this was a showcase for Maddock’s potential then for me it did the opposite. I would be reluctant to see this playwright’s work again but very keen to see these actors again as they made a difficult piece incredibly watchable .