Jennifer Haley’s newest play is now at the Duke of York having transferred from the Royal Court. The Nether takes a step into the not so distant future and the idea of people being hooked into a nether realm (an alternate reality) for most of their lives. Something we are seeing become more and more apparent as we move towards virtual reality. In this world Haley discusses what happens to those of us with a slightly darker sexual appetite.
The couple sitting next to me were clearly on a romantic evening out and after the first sign of con-sensual sex between a fully grown man and a young girl being hinted at.. I got the feeling this wasn’t going to be the romantic night out they had planned! The play surrounds child abuse and argues that as it’s in a computer generated world, is paedophilia legal? The arguments raised by Haley are legitimate and in the current climate of scandal after scandal being discovered it’s an extremely relevant piece.
The subject matter is inspired and shown to us in a creative way, however, a show like this does have it’s problems. One of the problems I had is with the script, in particular the overly descriptive way of getting across the history of how the Nether Realm came to be. The characters know full well how things had transpired but of course the audience does not, this is always going to be problematic and I felt Haley's writing didn’t approach this in a satisfying way which left the scenes lacking in realism. In one of the earlier scenes, Detective Morris (Amanda Hale) talks to the creator of this particularly dark realm, Simms (Stanley Townsend) about the Nether Worlds beginnings but he knows exactly what she is talking about, the scene becomes drawn out as they focus on this back and forth discussing that would be the every day to them.
Stanley Townsend should get mentioned here for a superb performance that takes a lot of guts. This character, who should be loathed, has moments where the audience could feel sorry for him. This would, as it did the night I saw the production, make an audience uncomfortable in a wonderfully terrible way. You could see people shifting in their seats as the young Iris (portrayed courageously by Zoe Brough) was groomed in this fetishist playground and when she herself acts in sexual ways towards nervous client (Ivanno Jeremiah).
The scenes inside the Nether World are done unapologetically which is perfect, the show needs to be gutsy to really hit home with it’s message and Jeremy Herrin's direction here must be praised for taking a strong standpoint and helping these actors travel through a very dark narrative that must have been difficult to rehearse. These scenes show a Victorian paradise where Simms created world is brought to life on stage, the set design for this is quite beautiful in harsh contrast with the tone of the piece.
Eventually, without giving too much away, we see that anyone can be anyone in this world including the young girls. To add another layer to this Haley suggests that there is a further step that those in this world will take, after taking advantage of the girls she comments that the natural progression is to kill, and as this is a virtual world this can be done again and again. The idea of giving into primal urges reaches absolutely everyone, the darker side to human beings is shown in vivid reality on stage.
The piece has it’s areas for improvement, it does feel very sluggish at times and there are moments of contradiction within itself. Also with the plot actually becoming a sweet love story (seems implausible I know but you will have to see it to understand) it removes the power of where it begins. The set too, beautiful as it was, lacked somewhat in it’s execution and was a little rough around the edges.
This is a great show if you’re up for something to really make you think, but if you’re expecting light hearted entertainment (like the couple next to me who I had noticed were sitting in stunned silence leaning away from each other by the end) you may want to take a walk up the road and see something else. This one is for the hardcore, theatre drama nuts, having said that however, if you are a fan of Charlie Brooker's ‘Black Mirror’ series of stories then this could be for you.
Review by Shane Goodsir.
Want us to review your work? Get in touch on the Contact page!
© ActingHour™ 2017.
All Rights Reserved.