“If we are the choices that we make, then who am I if Google helps me make that decision?”

The issue of personal privacy and the amount we share online is often a centre of debate, making James Graham’s new play, Privacy (currently playing at the Donmar Warehouse), urgently topical and important viewing. Indeed, by wrestling with this multi-faceted and contentious topic, Graham demonstrates just how complacent, and as a result, how incredibly vulnerable we have become thanks to the pervasion of the internet into every corner of our lives.

Privacy tells the story of The Writer, who, in order to really grasp the subject matter of this play, is pushed by The Director into engaging with the online world he has hitherto avoided. By creating an online identity through various email, online shopping and social network accounts, The Writer initially enjoys the instant connection and convenience the internet offers: help with decision making thanks to tailored ads and search engine suggestions, instant gratification thanks to the speed of communication, and more. However, as we follow The Writer’s journey, it soon becomes clear that by creating an online identity, he has eroded his own; indeed, the more he opens up and shares his ‘Likes’, pastimes and preferences, the more vulnerable he is on a personal, but more worryingly a political level.

Privacy itself is full of secrets and surprises, the many unexpected turns and shocking facts it uncovers making it a thrilling as well as informative watch from start to finish. Upon arrival, the audience are instructed to leave their phones on and use them throughout the course of the show: making it perfect for today’s compulsive email checkers and Facebook stalkers, while of course making its point clearly by doing so. The play’s tutorial-like moments allow the audience to discover first hand from their own devices just how easily they can be tracked and found at any moment, should the higher powers deem it necessary – an area itself which Graham demonstrates as blurry and susceptible to abuse.

Shrewd and worrying observations colour this play-cum-lecture, such as the harrowing idea that companies like Facebook and Twitter draw users in with a free service, with the users themselves instead becoming the product to be sold. Thankfully, where Privacy could easily fall into didacticism, it instead never fails to entertain thanks to its sharp wit, brilliant impersonations and impressions by the strong cast, and the various storytelling devices Graham and director Josie Rourke employ. As such, the play is a blast, making it a great night at the theatre while serving a large portion of food for thought. Privacy is not only entertainment, but an overdue education – grappling with an issue which threatens each and all of us unless we take action now.

Privacy is playing at the Donmar Warehouse until 31 May. For more information and tickets, see the Donmar Warehouse website. Photo by Johan Persson