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The Theatreguide.London Review

Silk Road 
Trafalgar Studio 2  Summer 2018

Alex Oates' 55-minute monologue, here performed by Josh Barrow, is the account by a young man of his misadventures on the way to becoming a grown-up.

It is a familiar genre – there are at least a dozen similar pieces at every Edinburgh Fringe – but Silk Road is not an impressive example. Its structure is loose and rambling, its central character undeveloped and its purpose unclear. 

The speaker is a Geordie lad inexplicably taken up by the poshest and prettiest girl in his class to hang out with during the summer before she goes off to university. She introduces him to a world of drink- and drug-fuelled parties, which somehow leads to his becoming the DJ at a local club run by a drug-dealer.

Coincidentally he discovers the Dark Web, the internet's underworld of dealers in unsavoury goods, and he decides to go into competition with his employer, buying cocaine in bulk on the Dark Web and, through an ingenious ruse, retailing it via e-bay. 

His adventure comes to a close when the FBI, chasing an American cybercriminal, disrupts the Dark Web, and he ends up not appreciably better or worse off than he began. 

Alex Oates does have an ear for the occasional good joke. The boy's grandmother remembers her late husband as 'like Tom Cruise but six foot tall and straight', some heavily cut cocaine is 'homeopathic' and Geordie girls shrieking their 'Hiya' greetings are likened to Ninja warriors attacking. 

But there is no coherence or natural cause-and-effect to the boy's adventure. 

The posh girl, who all-but-disappears from the narrative after the first episode, does not directly lead to the DJ job, his exploration of the Dark Web comes out of nowhere, there's no clear motivation for his becoming a drug dealer (i.e., he doesn't desperately need the money), and even his downfall is merely the very distant collateral damage of an unnamed American's drama. 

Meanwhile the boy himself shows no depth or complexity as a character, nor does he grow, change or seem particularly affected by his adventure.

Performer Josh Barrow brings some attractive boyish charm to the role but can't find anything more to play, and director Dominic Shaw and lighting designer Rachel Sampley sometimes seem more interested in finding a new lighting cue every thirty seconds or so than in what is being lit.

Gerald Berkowitz

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Review -  Silk Road - Trafalgar Studios  2018

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