Review: CTRL-Z

Thomas Cox 22 January 2020

Ctrl-Z is above all a remarkable piece of intelligent and thought-provoking student writing that leaves audience members both satisfied and terrified.

Even before entering the theatre, the buzz surrounding Ctrl-Z was an enigmatic one, developed through publicity headshots that hide the cast’s faces and a poster that, at first, apparently bears no relation to the technological theme of the production. This eerie veil of mystery was further developed in the theatre itself where the lighting and sound design creates an unnerving atmosphere for patient audience members with no idea what to expect.

Image credit: Flo Winkley

The play opens with a similarly unnerving monologue from ‘the algorithm’, depicted beautifully by Ferdinand Holley, who brings authority and humour to an obscure character and difficult dialogue. We are then introduced to the main characters of the play, which is where Georgie Newson-Errey’s writing truly begins to shine.

The play follows five different individuals who meet to discuss the best ways of removing themselves from the internet to escape something from their past or simply out of paranoia. Each character is used to explore an entirely different reason for wanting to go into ‘virtual oblivion’ (VO) and adds something interesting to the sophisticated narrative. Both the writing and the cast masterfully make these characters relatable and convincing.

The cast do a spectacular job in bringing to life the brilliant script which is filled with difficult technological dialogue. Each member of the cast aides the tension and drama that mounts throughout the play. Outstanding performances include, foremost, Jesi Bailey’s incredible depiction of Lola, a camgirl looking to delete an incriminating video from the internet. Bailey’s portrayal is perfectly balanced as commanding and empowered yet compassionate and ultimately heart-breaking. Other notable performances include Dominic Carrington’s authoritative but fragile leader, Guy, and Izzie Harding-Perrott who is the most immediately relatable as the recent graduate, Rhoda.

Image credit: Cerian Craske

This main storyline runs alongside a sub-plot, in which the Church used as the meeting place for the main characters interrupted by local archaeologists. This is used by Newson-Errey to flex her writing muscles a little through her intelligent comparisons between hacking and archaeology, or 14th century hermits and those intent on achieving VO. This storyline, although interesting, provides little to the main plot. It does however help to slow the pace and Rory Russell’s hilarious portrayal of Harold is the reason for some of the play’s biggest laughs.

The production itself makes great use of the Corpus playroom, with an impressive set that includes a stained-glass window. The poor transitions between scenes were, however, a point of weakness as they felt rushed and unrehearsed, breaking up the tension and causing the audience to laugh at actors stuck behind a door or bench.

Image credit: Flo Winkley

This minor criticism is more than forgiven, thanks to the brilliant production and impressive cast. The redeeming quality of Ctrl-Z is without a doubt its incredibly intelligent writing which will encapsulate and unnerve audience members. Complex and scarily relevant themes of data protection are expertly balanced with moments of drama and hilarity, such as one scene in which the characters speak to Vladimir Putin through a dildo. Overall, audiences are sure to leave the theatre thanking the algorithm that Newson-Errey didn’t press undo.

4.5 stars.