Teh Internet is Serious Business LulzSec Play Review
The cast of Teh Internet Is Serious Business which tells of the rise and fall of the hacktivist group LulzSecJohan Persson

Attempting to replicate the online world on a stage sounds like a futile endeavour.

Recreating the nuances, the size, and the ubiquity of the internet sounds impossible, yet somehow Tim Price's story of the rise and fall of a group of hackers manages to capture the essence of the virtual world perfectly.

Teh Internet Is Serious Business (typo intended), which is running at the Royal Court in London until 25 October, tells the story of LulzSec, an offshoot of the Anonymous movement and made up of six disparate hackers who shot to prominence in 2011 for high profile attacks on the likes of the FBI, CIA, and Sony Pictures.

The story revolves around two UK members of the group, Jake Davis (aka Topiary) and Mustafa al-Bassam (aka TFlow) who came to the Anonymous movement from very different paths.

Davis, excellently played by the Kevin Guthrie, is transformed from a bedroom-bound agoraphobic to a superstar on the internet stage, freed from real-world constraints by the anonymity afforded by the online world. He is all about the lulz, trolling people just for their reaction.

Al-Bassam, played with subtlety by Hamza Jeetooa, is a socially awkward 15-year-old, who is bored with school where he has no friends, and finds a home among the hackers where he is revered for his coding skills.

LulzSec

Davis and Al-Bassam are joined by Irish hacker Darren Martyn (aka Pwnsauce), and Yorkshire-based Ryan Ackroyd, who while online claimed to be a 16-year-old girl called Kayla. The fifth member of LulzSec was AVUnit and is the only member of the group who was never identified by the authorities.

The final member was Hector Monsegur (aka Sabu), the self-proclaimed leader who would ultimately decide the fate of the group.

We follow this group of hackers as they take on targets such as the Westboro Baptist Church, Scientology, and eventually the FBI, CIA and the UK's Serious Organised Crime Agency (Soca).

The real genius of Price's production however is not in telling the story, but in its ability reproduce the anarchic world of internet forums and message boards, particularly the /b/ board of 4Chan, where the Anonymous movement originated.

Price uses characters such as PedoBear, Grumpy Cat, and Advice Dog along with dozens of actors representing Anonymous forum members to replicate the anything-goes attitude of that virtual world.

Civil disobedience

The story focuses on the origins of Anonymous and why they did what they did, attempting to give some context (if not legitimacy) to the hacktivist movement.

Anonymous became a voice for the disaffected, for the socially awkward - it became a movement of civil disobedience in a digital world.

One of the hardest things for people to grasp about the Anonymous idea is its dichotomy. On the one hand it is a powerful force for change, helping activists in countries such as Tunisia access the internet following government censorship. While on the other hand it is all about the lulz, trolling people just for a reaction.

This dichotomy is represented on stage by the stories of Al-Bassam and Davis.

Price, who has previously written plays about Chelsea Manning and the Occupy movement, focuses mainly on the personal stories within Anonymous and how people who don't know each other, and have never met in real life, interact and come to trust each other.

Betrayal

The LulzSec story is one with a natural dramatic arc, a story of betrayal where Sabu has to make the decision to protect his real world family while giving up his virtual family.

Price addresses a lot of the issue with the Anonymous movement, both from those within the group and people on the outside, but he fails to satisfactorily resolve any of them.

Is hacktivism a legitimate form of protest? Is it acceptable to reveal the details of millions of innocent people just to make a point?

Creating a believable representation of the online world inhabited by these characters was not an easy task, yet Price along with director Hamish Pirie, designer Chloe Lamford, and the 15-strong cast have done so with gusto and humour.

While the production shies away from really tackling the real world implications of LulzSec's attacks, and the fallout for the hackers themselves, it gives those of us not intimately involved with the origins of Anonymous a rare and accessible glimpse into that world.