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  • Writer's pictureAlex First

The Dark Web (Bottled Snail) at Chapel Off Chapel - 90 minutes without interval

Clever and melodic, The Dark Web is a delightful, rib tickling, original musical from the vivid imagination of its writer, composer and star Ariella Gordon.

The 90-minute show without interval, with four principal performers and another four in the ensemble, concerns a dysfunctional family.

June (Gordon) plays 15-year-old Andy’s (Eleanor Davey) aunt, to whom she is an embarrassment.

Photos by Anna Brady and Stray Orbit

Their interaction starts with June’s purchase of two cringe-inducing t-shirts.

June is good natured, kind-hearted and enthusiastic, but naive in the extreme. She can’t manage to land a job, try as she does to find one – any one.

Arrogance and entitlement are the chief traits of successful businessman Devon (Rory Preece), who has no idea of his daughter Andy’s capabilities.

And then there’s Andy’s “out there” grandma (Robyn Parker) who delights in upending convention when it comes to a senior citizen. More than once she shocks.

Things really go off the rails when Andy encourages technologically dyslexic June to forge new friendships in an online chat room.

Andy teaches her the most basic of skills, before she leaves June to her own devices.

Chaos ensues as the latter quickly finds her way to the dark web … and drug dealers.

Money goes missing and an Instagram message compromises Andy.

Meanwhile, as COVID-19 impacts, granny takes it upon herself to adopt grown children.

Many of those involved in The Dark Web are lawyers. They are smart, savvy and clearly very talented.

Bottled Snail was formed in 2013. Since then, it has involved upwards of 350 legal professionals in creative projects – from full scale theatre productions to concerts.

In the process, it has raised tens of thousands of dollars for charity.

The Dark Web is laugh aloud funny. It speaks to the pervasive nature of the internet and the divide between those in the know and others without a clue.

Theatrically Gordon and Davey are standouts. They are excellent performers who can sing wonderfully. They bounce off each other magnificently.

The timber in Preece’s vocals, too, is superb. All three can readily hold down a tune and what pointedly comic tunes they are.

Again, hats off to Gordon for her idea and execution.

Parker clearly loves her “show pony” status in the show. She struts about with her fake toothy grin, deliberately stirring the pot as grandma as the action unfolds.

A rap number adds to her repertoire.

It is not just The Dark Web script that is memorable, but the choreographed dance sequences (the work of Louise Reader).

Backed by a talented band, under the musical direction of Jude Angove, the saxophone stings are particularly noteworthy.

Deftly directed by Madeleine Hale, the only element of the production I felt needed tightening, on occasion, was the entry points between scenes.

The Dark Web is a triumphant and tantalising piece of musical theatre.

It is playing at Chapel Off Chapel until 4th September, 2022.


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