With Google trying to move into the job advertising market, and Facebook opening pop-up UK cafes where customers can talk to experts about privacy, tech giants seem bigger than ever. Shivani Thussu’s show, which styles the audience as a focus group for imaginary tech benemoth Grople, draws on legitimate concerns about data privacy.
Thussu has trained in clowning (at the prestigious Ecole Philippe Gaulier, no less) and long-form improvisation. She was also named one of Funny Women’s Ones to Watch in 2018, so the stakes were set high for her debut hour. As it turns out, Prefer Not to Say is a 50-minute show, so it’s easier to squeeze into your Fringe schedule than anticipated.
We’re introduced to various facilitators from Grople to lead the discussion and PowerPoint: firstly Lindsay, the fresh-off-maternity-leave mother of four young boys, who begins to demonstrate Grople’s all-seeing eye into search history, and introduces a new Grople product. Just as we’re settling in, Thussu gets rid of Lindsay and brings on some gradually worsening alternative leaders.
There are some fun throwaway lines for these characters: Monique, the French-speaking instructor, is from the “Bay Area of Marseilles”; another figure mentions that Grople runs a women’s prison. Thussu uses videos on the presentation’s PowerPoint to keep the audience entertained during costume changes, but it feels fraught at times, the audience’s patience wears thin, and the characters’ wigs become steadily more distracting.
Karen Millen, the fashion designer, appears as a celebrity speaker. When all the other characters’ names have been invented, even Grople owner Daniel who is modelled on the tech bro founders of Silicon Valley, it doesn’t make sense to use a real person’s name and business.
The mood picks up towards the end when Grople’s overarching aim is revealed, founder Daniel chillingly reminds us that “we know you better than you know yourself”, and one character’s rebellion threatens to bring down the company. The ending is sharp and it leaves a cliffhanger, but some audience members have disengaged beforehand.
Prefer Not to Say is promising, but with a character cull and perhaps another five minutes shaved off, it would be a stronger show.
Shivani Thussu: Prefer Not to Say is at Monkey Barrel Comedy at 13:20 until 25th August. For tickets and more information click here!
There’s still time to nominate a women-led show for the 2019 Funny Women Awards’ Best Show Category! The show with the most nominations will be picked! Nominate a show you have seen or your own show by 31st August here!