The Nether: Jennifer Haley
Duke of York’s Theatre
St Martin’s Lane,
London WC2N 4BG
7.30pm, mats Thurs, Sat 2.30pm
Runs: 1hr 15mins without interval. To 25 04
TICKETS: 0844 871 3055
Phone bookings: 44+ (0)207 492 1548
Mon-Fri 8am-8pm; Sat/Sun 9am-7pm
Review: by Carole Woddis of performance seen Feb 24, 2015:
Powerful, poetic, full of mystery.
It’s hardly surprising that Jennifer Haley’s The Nether has already acquired such acclaim (the Susan Smith Blackburn, a clutch of other American new writing awards as well as a Critics Circle award for its designer Es Devlin for last year’s British premiere at the Royal Court).
Taking the unlikely juxtaposition of paedophilia and the internet, Haley has turned it practically into a love poem or at the very least a persuasive argument for claiming that perhaps, after all, the internet is the safest place for anti-social behaviour without their being serious repercussions.
Except that in the case of her central protagonist, the middle-aged Sims (a transcendent Stanley Townsend), hauled up before the female detective Morris, something has gone terribly awry. For all Sims rationalisation of harmless freedom in his perfect cyber Hideaway world where he can indulge his Alice in Wonderland world of benign control over a string of little girls all called Iris, his creation has had murderous consequences.
Nobody is quite who they appear to be in The Nether – except for Iris, the little girl the object of Sims’ (he likes to style himself `Poppa’) desire. Part thriller, part exploration of love – fantasy and real – and the seductive temptations of swopping personas in the virtual reality world of video games, The Nether despite its dangerous, not to say explosive sexual subject matter, exerts a strange and beautiful hold on the imagination.
So brave and challenging a treatment is also one that in Jeremy Herrin’s Headlong/Royal Court co-production gets an extraordinary visual expression through Devlin’s video and digital design – one that, not unlike though very different in subject to The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time and Teh Internet is Serious Business, shows theatre designers re-inventing theatre design for our digital age and taking it to a new level.
As the two middle-aged men (David Calder plays the other protagonist to Sims) stand amidst the trees and woodland of Sim’s Hideaway world, declaring their love for each other through other personas, it’s a testimony once again to theatre’s extraordinary transformative power in creating aesthetic and emotional frissons simultaneously. Disturbingly wonderful.
By Jennifer Haley
Doyle: David Calder
Morris: Amanda Hale
Woodnut: Ivanno Jeremiah
Sims: Stanley Townsend
Iris: Jaime Adler
Director: Jeremy Herrin
Set: Es Devlin
Costume: Christina Cunningham
Video: Luke Halls
Lighting: Paul Pyant
Music: Nick Powell
Sound: Ian Dickinson for Autograph
A Headlong and Royal Court Theatre co-production.
Presented by Sonia Friedman Productions and Scott M Delman in association with Tulchin Bartner Productions, Lee Dean & Charles Diamond, 1001 Nights, JFL Theatricals/GHF Productions.
First perf of this production at the Duke of York’s Theatre, Jan 30, 2015.
First perf at the Royal Court Theatre, Sloane Square, July 17, 2014
World premiere, Spring 2013 produced by the Center Theatre Group at the Kirk Douglas Theatre, Los Angeles
More info: website: thenethertheplay.co.uk
Facebook: HeadlongTheatre and theroyalcourttheatre
Twitter: @HeadlongTheatre and @royalcourt, #thenether