War Of Attrition

The excellent and under-recognised Kilkenny Devious Theatre brought John Morton’s latest play, War of Attrition, to the new arts venue in Thomastown – Sessions Arts Centre. This was the second John Morton play to impress me so much in two months and the rundown, in-need-of renovation-and-a-coat-of-paint setting was a fine dystopian location for a very contemporary, 75-minute 3-hander that looked at the ‘scourge’ of social media, where ill considered ‘instant comment’ can go ‘viral’ very quickly and cause worse ignominy than cyber bullying.

Directed by Niamh Moroney, it uses projections and a thumping fine soundtrack to show how events, once recorded on a smartphone and uploaded, can be edited and embellished to cause “an onslaught of insults, curses, cyberbullying, glares, abuse and crud” on the web via YouTube or other online sites. Roseanna Purcell plays Daisy, a Tipperary girl who moved to Dublin and became, by dire necessity, a fundraiser clipboard girl, a ‘psycho chugger, or ‘charity mugger’. She is well-meaning but trapped in a relentless grind in a thankless job with a sub, zero-hour contract, where people try to avoid contact with her.

John Doran plays Alan, who works in some government office; in his fantasy online life, as Generalissimo Malaise, he records people’s embarrassment and puts it online to get attention and validation by contemporary cruelty. He accosts Daisy and she gets annoyed at his attempts to avoid her. She lashes out and he videos this on his smartphone. The resultant ‘upload’ goes viral and Daisy is shamed, loses her job and becomes a figure of fun. She then sets out for revenge and, using social media, tracks down Alan and ‘gets even’ or ‘gets her own back’.