Review: The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs

Edinburgh Festival Fringe until 27 August.

The story of the rise, rise and rise of Apple and Steve Jobs….

Mike Daisey—who has written this piece, performed in Edinburgh by Grant O’Rourke—has been widely acclaimed for his expose of the working conditions of the Chinese workers who assemble the iPhones that have become the West’s ‘must have’ item of technology.

Technology is where Daisey begins his journey, admitting his ‘fanboy’ status when it comes to Apple items. According to Daisey, Apple products were the holy grail: technology as it was meant to be, as it was promised it would be: user-friendly and fabulous.

The one man show then moves on to intertwine a potted history of Steve Jobs and Apple, hitting all the major points along the route but examining none in any great detail, with the revelations from his fact-finding visit to the now-notorious Foxconn factory in China, where the product is built.

It is in the Chinese sections that Daisey’s message come across strongly: this wonderful technology is ours at a price, and the price is the slave-like conditions under which Foxconn’s factory workers exist. His conclusion is that we know this now, and in our continued use of Apple products we therefore must condone it. The knowledge of how the products are made can never be erased from our mental hard drives.

The Edinburgh presentation is a one-hour version of Daisey’s original two-hour show (which itself has been revised in a one hour forty-five minute version), performed by O’Rourke. There’s been some controversy about previous versions of this show, with accusations of exaggeration and fabrication coming Daisey’s way. However, there is no denying the central truth of his case and the forceful way he puts it across in this show.

The question left in the air is: what are we going to do about it?

There’s more political activism (of  sort) in Edinburgh this month in Richard Peppiatt’s amusing One Rogue Reporter in which the ex-tabloid journalist turns the tables on Britain’s tabloid executives and editors in a series of very funny Candid Camera style stunts. There’s also recent Scottish political history to be enjoyed in the comedy I, Tommy, an expletive littered account of the rise and fall of Scottish Socialist leader Tommy Sheridan, which includes one Andy Coulson as a minor player…

Verdict: An engaging piece of technology-driven agit-prop.

The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs: 8/10

Brian J. Robb


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