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Whistleblower, The Edward Snowden Story at Waterloo East Theatre – Review

Whistleblower, The Edward Snowden StoryEveryone is familiar with the work of Edward Snowden, the chap that told the Guardian what the United States Government were clandestinely doing in the name of protecting the populace. To some, Edward is a hero, to others, he is a traitor. But, behind the leaks, there is a real life human being who at some point in his life made the decision to go against his contract and the law and it is this man that Whistleblower, The Edward Snowden Story at Waterloo East looks at in detail.

Edward Snowden (Ruari Cannon) is a patriot. He comes from a family that has served the USA in various ways for a long time. In an effort to serve, Edward joins the army but fails to complete training. He then moves to the University of Maryland as a security guard and one night, he provides computer assistance to an NSA (National Security Agency) operative who is having issues with his PC. Realising that Edward has some excellent computer skills, the agency quickly move him from security guard and into the murky world of the spook. Edward has a pretty good career with the NSA and other agencies but is starting to have doubts about the methods used to gather data about potential terrorists. Eventually, Edward’s disillusionment is complete and he makes the difficult decision to let the public know what is being done in their name if not necessarily with their consent. It is pretty well known what happens next and Edward divulges information to the newspapers bringing a whole heap of trouble on himself.

I first saw Whistleblower, The Edward Snowden Story a couple of years ago and really enjoyed the show then. However, Writer and – along with Eloise Lally – Co-Director Richard Roques has re-written the show and produced a much tighter production that, to me, gave the audience a much better insight into Edward’s actions and the reasoning behind him taking the actions he did. It could be argued that the writing tells the story in a rather one-sided way but, I actually think that this is a good thing and works as a lovely counterpoint to the various versions of events put out by the state agencies – none of whom can necessarily be trusted. The cast of eight, excluding Ruari, play various roles involved in the story and do it extremely well, never causing confusion over who is playing whom. Laura Cuervo-Restrepo’s set works brilliantly and the fairly empty stage – with what looks like a circuit board painted on it – and a few highly movable cubes creating all the scenes, with a nice piece of video behind making sure the audience know which location we are in – a necessity considering the sheer number of places in which this play takes place. When not on the stage, the cast sit at computers along the edges of the walls, carrying out ‘monitoring’ work. This is my one minor gripe with the production. I personally think that it would have been slightly better if the screens had shown streams of data running down them to really help the illusion of monitoring. That is such a minor point though.

Whistleblower the story of Edward SnowdenWhistleblower, The Edward Snowden Story is a really great production. The story itself is quite fascinating and I felt by the end of it that I had got more of an understanding not only of Edward but also of some of the other characters in the story. This is particularly true of General Alexander (nicely played by Cory Peterson) who came across initially as wanting to do the right thing to protect the country but by the end felt like someone who now believed he was the only one with the solutions and would stop at nothing to do what he thought was right. I loved – whilst also despising – the methods used to get the ‘voluntary co-operation’ of the various internet and social media companies, and the scene where the representative from GCHQ exploits the fact the UK doesn’t have a written constitution to assist the NSA was as shocking this time as the first time I saw it.

The writer, directors and cast deliver something that really adds flesh to the bones of what we all know about Edward Snowden and ultimately leave the audience to decide if he is a hero or a traitor. Talking points that my friends and I still go over now. A great evening’s entertainment and a lovely piece of theatre.
4 stars

Review by Terry Eastham

Whistleblower the story of Edward Snowden
By Richard Roques

Hero or Traitor? Edward Snowden is holed up in a hotel in Hong Kong.
He has left his life in Hawaii, abandoned paradise, for a life on the run.
Tortured by thoughts of his girlfriend, his mother and father and the fate of other whistleblowers in prison, he waits. But will the CIA or the National Security Agency find him first?

`The surveillance carried out by the U.S. Intelligence services is mass, indiscriminate surveillance.’
The European Court of Justice September 2015

Whistleblower the story of Edward Snowden
By Richard Roques
9th February to 6th March 2016


1 thought on “Whistleblower, The Edward Snowden Story at Waterloo East Theatre – Review”

  1. Thoroughly enjoyed today’s matinee. Certainly came away with a better understanding of Snowden’s “story” and the actors delivered a polished performance. Well done all!

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