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Stuart King

Review: SILK ROAD (HOW TO BUY DRUGS ONLINE) at the Trafalgar Studios

Little did Alex Oates realise when attempting to raise funds to stage his show at the Edinburgh FringeSilk Road - How to buy drugs online VAULT Festival back in 2014, that he would make history... but thanks to an anonymous Bitcoin donation on Crowdfunder, that's exactly what happened.

SILK ROAD (HOW TO BUY DRUGS ONLINE) became the first production to receive financial backing via a cryptocurrency and given the subject matter, this now seems entirely appropriate.

Inspired by interviews with real online drug vendors the play navigates the thrills and dangers of exploring the Dark Web. The hero of the piece is a teenage Geordie tech geek Bruce Blakemore (Josh Barrow) who by a series of misadventures and inadvertent twists, finds himself drawn into the internet's equivalent of an underworld populated by gangsters and piratical villains... aided and abetted by his tea cosy knitting grandmother.

The simple set of stacked books and a chair allow the rubber-faced Barrow to position himself around the small stage so that every audience member gets front, back and side views as he switches rapidly and effortlessly between the characters. Although each individual is only sketchily drawn, the pastiche personifications, vocalisations and sheer physical transformations, result in a lightening-paced stream of variety which maintains audience attention - although occasionally phrases can get lost in the rapid delivery.

There’s daft observational humour a-plenty, like when a burly bouncer is revealed as a leading light in the local amateur dramatics society and asserts his belief that portraying Captain Von Trapp is psychologically a hard nut to crack.

The piece is almost over before it’s begun, but given the average age of the audience, diminishing attention spans and the frenetic pace maintained throughout it represents an entertaining blast - even if it remains essentially a slick, fringe festival piece.

Silk Road - How to buy drugs online