Silk Road Open at Vaults

We’re super happy to have opened to Five Star Reviews at Vault Festival this week, Live theatre next week is Sold Out.

Broadway World Review -

Bruce is an everyday run of the mill Geordie lad who desires more for his life. Living with his Nan he is unemployed and moping over a childhood sweetheart that has upped sticks and gone off to university. Unsure of his life’s direction, he discovers Silk Road; a backdoor to the dark web where all sorts of dangerous dealings go on undetected.

What are some of the dangerous dealings? Well, as the subtitle suggests it’s: ‘how to buy drugs online.’ How is this possible? Postman Pat delivers them straight to your door standard class, and his black and white cat is none the wiser.

The story of this plays creation is exciting in itself. After a call out on the real Silk Road forums for contributions to funding, an anonymous donor donated two bitcoin. Since then, bitcoin value has plummeted and two bitcoin are currently worth just over £15,000. Playwright Alex Oates as funded the entire production with this crypto currency. Of course there are better ways to legally make money online using bitcoin, and we think you should be using the best bitcoin trading platform to minimise your fees when you do so.

Oates has done a tremendous job, and alongside director Dominic Shaw they have both created a production that is a rollercoaster of emotion from start to finish. The writing is electric, bouncy and with a vibrancy that constantly keeps you on your toes.

Josh Barrow brings the piece to life with his hour-long epic monologue, in which he plays a total of five different characters. Never once dipping in energy, his physicality and voice drastically change with each new person portrayed, and this allows him to demonstrate a lot of emotional depth and comic timing. It’s a fantastic performance from a promising young actor.

Throughout you’re really taken on a great story that ends up being rounded of incredibly well. Oates writes with a slickness and brutality that Shaw exploits brilliantly in his staging. The end result is a production that is of the finest quality, and it’ll probably end up being one of the highlights of this year’s festival

Photography by Nick Rutter

Photography by Nick Rutter

We are BACK!

The first play to be funded by bitcoin makes a triumphant return with its London premiere, opening VAULT Festival 2018!

“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.

Set in 2014, immediately preceding and in the aftermath of the arrest of the website’s alleged founder Ross Ulbricht, Silk Road was first performed at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in the same year. Ulbricht’s two and half life sentences - larger than even the late Charles Manson’s - have been challenged repeatedly, but without avail. In the play’s coming-of-age story, the repercussions of Ulbricht’s targeting by the FBI hits home as Bruce’s empire unravels.

Following a callout on the real Silk Road forums for contributions to the original production’s crowdfunding campaign, an anonymous donor donated two bitcoin, which the team kept, investing their value at the time of £400 apiece into the funder themselves. Those bitcoin are now worth over $11,000 each, following the recent spike in its value and playwright Alex Oates has gone on to invest in over $40,000 worth of multiple cryptocurrencies since that introduction to the blockchain. Trading this fund with the top crypto trading apps has a great probability of multiplying it. Check out the trading apps test results from various users to get a better idea of how to choose the best trading platform from the many options available.

Following two smash-hit years at VAULT Festival with Underground and The Litterati, and the former transferring to Brits off-Broadway at 59E59 Theaters in June 2017, Shrapnel Theatre returns to VAULT Festival with Silk Road, before seeking to tour the production later in 2018.

Alex Oates has been shortlisted for both the Old Vic 12 and long listed for the Bruntwood Prize, with previous work including Pig and Rules for Being a Man (UK tours). Dominic Shaw is a director from Jersey, and currently associate director for Kinky Boots in the West End. Previous directing work includes A Memory for Forgetting (Arcola) and Fan Fiction (Other Palace).

Review Round Up!

Silk Road The play was really fortunate to receive some lovely reviews. We had 6 five star reviews and 2 four stars! Some reviews don’t do stars so to read what the critics said about the play you need look no further than below!

A Younger Theatre - “Silk Road certainly has a lot going for it”

The Scotsman - “ Oates writes with lively poetic flourishes and a good comic ear, and in actor James Baxter, he has a warm and endearing interpreter”

Broadway Baby - “ this is a fascinating, bittersweet story. Through the vivid personal experience of Bruce Blakemore, the faceless Silk Road is humanised,”

Three Weeks - “Like a hybrid of ‘Snatch’ and ‘Starter for Ten’, this is both an adolescent adventure and a grotesque, criminal caper. Gritty and very well written by Old Vic New Voices playwright Alex Oates, ‘Silk Road’ is the best thing to come from its namesake”

Quotidian Times - “A veritable tour de force, Baxter gives what must surely be a major contender for best performance of the Fringe 2014. His performance is electric, compelling and palpable, never letting up or losing your attention once throughout.

Alex Oates has provided Baxter an excellent script to work with: imaginative, well constructed combined with well thought out and provocative dialogue. The setting is minimal but this only adds to the plethora of talent and energy seething from the stage.

I would recommend this show to anyone and in a year when I have yet to see a disappointing piece of drama and the standards are high ‘Silk Road’ and Baxter are the best yet by quite some way.”

Postscript Journal - “Alex Oates has created something very modern with this play, which allows the dialectical dialogue to press occasionally into the poetic with the delicacy of Jim Cartwright or Dylan Thomas. As well as being extremely funny, the text is perfectly balanced, with cleverly woven recurring motifs that draw the whole thing together in satisfying unity.

Despite being a play about an abstract online space, Silk Road is a completely human story, light on the jargon and heavy on the heart-strings. The show is elegant and well-composed, but with an honest, unpretentious charm, and is an absolute must-see for this festival.

James Baxter is an enormously talented performer, and plays Bruce with cheeky likeability, masterfully handling the character’s narrative responsibilities. His comic timing is perfect, and his precise and specific performance makes each different character in the story instantly recognisable.”

The New Current - “Playwright Alex Oates has made ’Silk Road’ exciting and accessible allowing the audience to connect to ‘Blakemore’s story while keep an open mind.”

The Public Reviews - “He relates his story to the audience like they are his best friend and they are, because he enthrals, entertains and holds them. This is new writing at its best, well-staged and brilliantly acted, if only more festival shows were like this.”

Fringe Guru - “It’s a long time since I have been quite so enthralled by a piece of theatre. This is theatre at its very best. The writing by Alex Oates is smart, humorous and in places powerfully touching, and it truly was so good that I would cheerfully click the refresh button and start watching it all over again. If you are looking for a powerful and entertaining play this Fringe, then search no further.”

Festival Journal - “The story struck the perfect balance between humour and tragedy. Relationships, stereotypes, and tropes are all played for laughs, whilst difficulty, unfairness, cruelness, and absurdity are all treated with genuine pathos and humanity.”

Broadway World - “Baxter is skilled with adopting the mannerisms of each character and he really gave a fantastic performance.”

Edinburgh Evening News - “James Baxter is a treat to watch”



Great Reviews!

So we are almost half way through our Edinburgh experience and some reviews have started coming in! Check them out!

***** - Quotidian Times

“A veritable tour de force, Baxter gives what must surely be a major contender for best performance of the Fringe 2014. … I would recommend this show to anyone and in a year when I have yet to see a disappointing piece of drama and the standards are high ‘Silk Road’ and Baxter are the best yet by quite some way.”

***** - The Public Reviews

“Baxter relates his story to the audience like they are his best friend and they are, because he enthrals, entertains and holds them. This is new writing at its best, well-staged and brilliantly acted, if only more festival shows were like this.”

**** - Broadway Baby

“James Baxter gives several nuanced performances under Dominic Shaw’s direction, bringing alive the wide-eyed Bruce and his shuffling, lisping Nan alongside a group of fleshed-out and hilarious minor characters.”

Rehearsal update! 2 days to go!

Rehearsals are going swimmingly for Silk Road, today we were fortunate enough to have movement director Gareth Taylor in the room.

Gareth is an associate artist of the Fringe First award winning  ‘ Curious Directive’ theatre company and has worked wonders on the physical score for Silk Road with actor James Baxter.

Gareth Taylor

Gareth Taylor

Great interview with writer, Alex Oates

There’s a lovely article about us on The Daily Dot about us, for those too lazy to click here, here it is…

By Tom Harrington on July 21, 2014

The seedy world of the Deep Web is bleeding into the realm of art.

U.K.-based playwright Alex Oates is staging a one-man show based on the story of Silk Road, the online black market for drugs and other contraband that was shut down last year by the FBI.

Just the thought of a dramatic recreation of an Internet community might bring an unwelcome shudder as memories of Hackers and The Net come rushing back—memories where “hacking” took the form of some sort of 3D Tron-esque computer game and the limits of the ‘Net’s future utility is the buying of pizza.

So there’s good reason to be skeptical of Oates’s Silk Road, right? Maybe not.

“It’s something that’s difficult to blag,” Oates tells the Daily Dot. “Those awful, cringe-inducing hacker tropes were prevalent because they were just tasking middle-aged screenwriters to try and do something ‘current’ without really getting to grips with the technology or interacting with the communities.”

Oates says that he, along with other young artists, actually understand how to translate the drama of the Internet world for the stage. For example, Oates mentions Enda Walsh’s Chatroom as the play “that made me realise it is possible to do tech on stage without having a bunch of people wiggling their fingers air-typing on imaginary keyboards.”

Oates’s Silk Road is inspired by interviews and interactions with anonymous users and vendors on Silk Road’s forums. It follows Bruce Blakemore, “a struggling young tech-head” from Newcastle in the United Kingdom, who, along with his grandmother, are drawn into an “Underworld Wide Web of new-age pirates and local gangsters.”

As a plot, it is not as far-fetched as it may sound. “These aren’t simply jejune junkies who just happen to know their way around a computer. Debate about international and national drug policy is in depth and well informed,” says Oates. “There are also a lot of discussions surrounding libertarian ideals and global economic and socio-political systems.

“The revolution may not be televised, but I’m wondering if it might be streamed.”

Oates is not the first to see the dramatic possibilities in the Silk Road takedown. Last October, 20th Century Fox licensed the rights to a Wired article by journalist Joshua Davis, which told the story of the site’s seizure by the FBI and the arrest of alleged Silk Road mastermind Ross William Ulbricht.

In Oates’s version, Silk Road is portrayed in a positive light in his play, he says, both as a technological acheivement and as a refutation of the worldwide War on Drugs.

“We explain the site and how it works in a down-to-earth and passionate fashion because, frankly, it is a pretty exciting development in technology,” he says. “People clinging to the concept of the War on Drugs may find it difficult that the play upholds it as a potentially safer and generally better alternative to street drug dealing.”

Not only is Silk Road one of the first theatrical productions to tackle the world of the Deep Web, it’s also one of the first—if not the first—to accept the Internet’s favorite form of payment: Bitcoin.

“I created a new account on Silk Road 2.0 forums telling them all about the play. One of the most well-established vendors sent me a private message saying that once they could ascertain that the play was for real they’d donate to our cause,” says Oates. “I launched the appeal for bitcoins on our website and immediately we received the donation.”

While Oates is accepting Bitcoin donations through the Silk Road website, the two bitcoins he received after chatting with a Silk Road vendor didn’t actually go toward the production itself.

“Because taking a play to Edinburgh is so expensive, and because so much of that cost has to be shouldered by the team and paid upfront, we sold them straight away to pay for the deposit on our flat for the month.

“We sold them for £600, they would currently get us about £740 and are predicted to be worth £2000 by the end of the year. So I’m a bit gutted.”

Silk Road premieres in August at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, after a preview in London on July 27.

Photo via Antti T. Nissinen/Flickr (CC BY 2.0) | Remix by Jason Reed

Week 2 of Rehearsals

Week 2 is underway for Silk Road the play at Assembly Venues Edinburgh and everything is going to plan so far. James Baxter who plays Bruce is having a blast finding his way into the piece and exploring different physicalities for all the characters. Can’t wait for you to see it!image

Don’t forget we still have a few tickets left for the preview at The New Diorama on July 27th.

A massive thank you!

We hit our Kickstarter campaign target! Thanks so much to everyone who donated and helped us make sure that this play can happen. Nobody likes asking for money and we all felt a bit awkward about it so we are eternally grateful that friends, family, dominatrix’s and total strangers rallied around us to help out!

It will all be worth it in August!

Thanks again!