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Review of Silk Road at the Vault Festival 2018

Silk RoadSilk Road (How to Buy Drugs Online) by Alex Oats is currently running in the Pit at The Vault Festival. A short piece at just under 60 minutes, this is a one-man show, performed by the talented and versatile Josh Barrow as Bruce.

The piece is set in 2014, and our protagonist is Bruce, a 19-year-old DJ who lives with his Nan. Bruce is a criminal mastermind, he’s geek chick, internet savvy and master of the dark web! He’s portrayed as an unlikely criminal – I mean looking at Bruce, he isn’t exactly one of the Kray twins or even a Ronnie Biggs. But Bruce is the emperor of his own eCommerce operation selling narcotics. What Bruce is, is a pirate of the dark web, a pirate cruising the waves of the internet, buying copious amounts of cocaine via Bitcoin and selling it a rather clever and discreet way with a little bit of help from his dear old Nan.

The play starts at the end of Bruce’s story: Bruce stands on stage with a pile of books, a toaster and some lighter fluid. He starts the process of setting fire to this unexplained library of books. There is a change of light, a shift in atmosphere and we are taken back a year in Bruce’s life to 1st October 2013. We then follow Bruce’s trajectory from love-sick, unemployed teenage to an eBay seller of note, criminal mastermind and anti-hero of the play.

The piece is an engaging story, the script is smart, witty and of the moment. The performance is energetic, of high level and the way that our actor morphs into a variety of characters is seamless. I really enjoyed his versions of Nan, Mr Shaggy and the bouncer with a penchant for musical theatre. Barrow appeared very comfortable on stage and easily performed his monologue, as well as break the fourth wall and have banter with audience members in the front row.

Now, for those of you who are thinking, why would I want to go and see a piece of theatre that tells me how to buy drugs online, don’t worry, this play isn’t a lexicon for wannabee dealers, it is an anecdotal piece that is set in the world of the internet, but more than this it’s a piece about a young man navigating life in a connected world; a world where internet comes first, moderators are king and anonymity is paramount. We do learn a bit about crypto-currencies, we learn how to hide drugs in your home, how to hollow out a book, how to become a premium seller on ebay and of course how to remain under the police’s radar and not get caught for selling hundreds of grams of coke!

It doesn’t matter if you haven’t heard of Bitcoin, Ross Ulbricht or Silk Road if you want to watch this play, if you have a Nan, a desire to break out of a corporate 9 – 5 life and want to receive some cosmic sucker punch to kick-start your life, then this play will be easy to relate to.

The piece is enjoyable, well-performed and there are some LOL moments, especially when our lead is regaling stories of his employer, Mr Shaggy, and Mr Shaggy’s love for the pop genius that is Michael Jackson. The Vault Festival is a great platform for work such as this, it’s an hour’s insight into another person’s world, a world that very few of us will be aware of, or want to explore, yet the play is also very accessible and not uncomfortable for the audience to watch.

3 Star Review

Review by Faye Stockley

How is it delivered? That’s the best bit! Royal Mail. Postman Pat brings your smack to your door with a smile and his black and white cat is none the wiser”

Bruce is nineteen, unemployed and living with his Nan. A struggling young Geordie tech-head, he’s the unlikeliest international criminal mastermind you can imagine. But sucked into an underworld dark web of new-age pirates, local gangsters and tea-cosies, it isn’t long before Bruce discovers how easy it is to buy narcotics online.

Prompted by the arrest in October 2013 of the alleged owner of Silk Road, and the first play ever to be funded by bitcoin, Bruntwood-longlisted playwright and OVNV alumnus Alex Oates’s play is a biting black comedy about how simple it is not only to buy but also sell drugs online. Directed by Dominic Shaw.

SILK ROAD (How to Buy Drugs Online)
by Alex Oates – VAULT Festival 2018
24th – 28th January ’18
Running Time: 60 minutes


  • Faye Stockley

    Faye read Theatre & Performance at The University of Warwick; she went on to work as a stage manager in London and Edinburgh. She had a year's stint on-board the MV Island Escape as a Social Host and Compere and now works full time as a Recruitment Manager for the broadcast, entertainment and media sectors.

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