- Eddie Harrison
- 6 August 2019
This article is from 2019
An angry slam on the working practices of internet giant Amazon
Corporations are often the bad guys; big, successful corporations like Amazon are inevitable targets for discontent. Behind the welcoming interface when consumers are ordering products, it's no surprise to hear that warehouse workers are unhappy with their conditions; Amazon are the only company that get a mention from SharkLegs theatre company's production, but several other ones spring to mind. It's not a modern problem, but it's a perennial issue; what is the human cost of commercial success?
Kezia Cole and Richard Hay have created a piece of theatre that splits into two; on one hand, there are the complaints of workers in Amazon Fulfilment Centres which are presented baldly; not enough time for visiting the toilet, few opportunities for breaks, a de-personalised workplace. A separate strand deals with a robot called Robox, ingeniously brought to life as a puppet by the company.
Robox wants to get to know each and every person in the audience, understand what makes us tick, and sell us the right product with next day delivery. He's a metaphor of the Amazon interface; friendly, likeable, but with intent that SharkLegs wants us to identify as sinister. Robox is a great invention in the War Horse / Avenue Q mould, taking three members of the cast to bring him to life, but the two strands of Fulfilment never quite mesh in the pointed way required.
What's revealed here, through unadorned testimony and through drama, suggests that one person's personal comfort is usually achieved at someone else's expense. That's probably true, but plays like Fulfilment are going to have to be more persuasive if their complaint is going to seem like more than sour grapes in the face of progress; there's a great play to be written about the unfairness of low-paid work, but Fulfilment is only half-way there.
Underbelly Cowgate, until 25 Aug (not 12), 3.40pm, £10–£11 (£9–£10).