Review: Insult to Injury, Lion & Unicorn Theatre

Kieran Dee and Grace Millie’s Insult to Injury proves a sharp workplace comedy at the Lion and Unicorn Theatre

“One day we’re hoping the software will take over”

The explosion of generative AI in so many aspects of our lives has brought with it ethical debates that haven’t yet quite moved at the same pace, an issue particularly prevalent on social media channels where notions of free speech slam up hard against content moderation in a precarious balancing act. This is the world of Moon Loaf’s Insult to Injury, a scabrously sharp workplace comedy that isn’t at all based the company formerly known as Twitter and the cis man who bought it.

Kieran Dee and Grace Millie’s play opens strongly as we meet Ellis and Kat (played by each, respectively) on the latter’s first day as a compliance manager for a massive (but unnamed) social media platform. Their office repartee is wittily and believably done – she worked in Integrity…for Fifa, he bangs on about Nick Cave albums – but when a post from the UK Prime Minister breaches their hate speech and violence policy, they’re pushed into a rabbit hole of internet infamy as trolls attack viciously.

Harriet Marsh’s production stages this effectively and sensitively, picking up on that they attack her much more than him and ruefully admiring the research skills of the keyboard warriors, even if they’re being employed for ill. The play then swerves into different but related territory as the company is bought out by businessman and genuine chaos agent Vos – Nick Hardie an absolute vision in flip-flops, mullet and ’90s Europop moves – whose relentless drive for profit over ethics causes almighty disruption.

This shift into almost thriller-like territory doesn’t have quite the same purchase, there’s little nuance to a character like Mus… Vos whose menace comes without much complexity. There’s so much more to be gained in listening to lines like “the Michael Flatley of outrage”, watching Dee’s Ellis struggle to get out of a beanbag chair (as indeed would we all) and observing the personal, emotional stakes raised between Ellis and Kat as their working relationship comes under intolerable pressure.

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