It’s not the first time Joe Lindsay has taken to the stage and put on an American accent. Back in 2009 Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival he played the role of radio shock jock Barry Champlain in Talk Radio.
PDF] of Mike Daisey’s original script – ie, the version with the made up bits removed – and was superbly abridged by Vittoria Cafolla.
“… to be in love with Apple is a little bit to be in love with heartbreak itself, because they break your heart, again and again ... because Steve Jobs was the master of the forced upgrade.”Later he quipped:
“Steve Jobs was always the enemy of nostalgia. He understood that the future requires sacrifice. Steve Jobs was never afraid to knife the baby.”The audience laughed knowingly as they remembered favourite features, functions and even products that changed (and sometimes disappeared) in the name of fruity progress.
For the next hour, Joe Lindsay flitted between the nature of geekishness, the differences between Steve Jobs and the much caricatured Steve Wozniak, boardroom tussles at the electronics giant, conditions in the Foxconn’s Chinese factory and its over-efficient manual build process that assembles Apple’s beautiful products.
“Shenzhen looks like Blade Runner threw up on itself.”One thread of the narrative hears how Mike Daisey went to China to try to meet Foxconn workers and find out first hand about their lives. Workers who had “fought their way out of villages to make a better life for themselves in the city” found themselves employed on production lines for 12 to 18 hours a day assembling Apple’s beautiful products before bedding down in company dorms. Yet nets had to be erected to catch jumpers wanting to kill themselves by suicide.
The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs is a play that challenges its audience about the impact of the technology they hold so dear. The play highlights how the flawed personality and incredible drive of Jobs created a company that was commercially successfully, yet required thousands of far away labourers to pay a heavy price for consumers’ shiny wares.
The play finished with the lines:
“Today we are jailbreakers. Today we are free. Help spread the virus.”The play isn’t without hope. Apple have finally started to pay more attention to conditions in their factories. Their market presence and strength means that they can impose (improved) changes to working conditions on their suppliers. And their power may even extend to improve conditions in the manufacturing industry in general: bringing a little more humanity to the lives of hundreds of thousands of other workers on other company’s production lines.
Apple’s recent moves to bring some product manufacturing and assembly back to North America may also change their worldwide business practices as workers will be able to speak out much more readily and be closer to consumers, bloggers and journalists.
But next time you reach into your pocket to lift your phone, boot up your slim line laptop, or use a scroll wheel to change the song on your MP3 player, spare a thought for the human sacrifice behind the device your touching.
A testing piece of theatre, expertly performed to a packed audience.