THE NETHER To 9 August.


by Jennifer Haley.

Royal Court (Jerwood Theatre Downstairs) Sloane Square SW1W 8AS To 9 August 2014.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat Thu & Sat 7.30pm sold out 4 Aug.

Runs 1hr 20min No interval.
Audio-described 9 Aug 2.30pm.
Captioned 6 Aug.
TICKETS: 020 565 5000.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 25 July.

Edge-of-danger aspect to thriller-like drama.
Would you rather live in the bare, tall-walled interrogation-room where Jennifer Haley’s play opens, or the shining, tree-lined depths of The Hideaway to which it recurrently transfers? Give me the narrow bareness any time, but people are attracted to Hideaways even though they don’t exist.

Or, they are imagined into existence. What makes The Hideaway sinister isn’t just its virtual existence – Luke Halls’ video projections show the illusion being created. It is in The Nether, the dark Internet zone where illegal content hides.

Detective Morris is sure she has her man in Sims. She’s looking for ‘Papa’, owner and organiser of others’ virtual existence in the virtual Victorian (probably American) mansion. There’s little doubt about his involvement, but Haley keeps-up suspense about Doyle, Morris’s other interviewee, a brilliant teacher nearing retirement.

In the final scene, Doyle’s appearance in The Hideaway is startlingly revealed, and the presence of another visitor, Woodnut, explained. Suspense always accompanies the unfolding of thematic issues. The only trouble with Friday’s pre-show discussion involving Haley and Professor Anthony Beech, who works with sex offenders, is that it had to avoid spoiling the plot. But, as part of the Royal Court’s new ‘Big Idea’ programme around productions, it gave an opportunity to focus more sharply on aspects of the drama.

Along with the usual comments about turning–off mobiles and not taking photos the Royal Court ushers stated as they tore tickets that every measure had been taken to ensure the safety of the child actor (who on Friday was excellent).

Seeing the play clarified what that meant – it’s the problem Bryony Kimmings faces in Credible Likeable Superstar Role Model, performing with her pre-teen niece. How do you involve a young person in a subject that is about young people but also involves issues that are potentially distressing. As Papa says, “Now, Iris, that joke is too old for you”.

Iris may not be a girl but the performer, here, is. Considering the inclusion of child performers in controversial dramas might be another Big Idea. Meanwhile, the play, like Jeremy Herrin’s finely-acted production, is up-to-the-minute and intriguing.

Sims: Stanley Townsend.
Morris: Amanda Hale.
Doyle: David Beames.
Iris: Zoe Brough/Isabelle Pappas.
Woodnut: Ivanno Jeremiah.

Director: Jeremy Herrin.
Designer: Es Devlin.
Lighting: Paul Pyant.
Sound: Ian Dickinson for Autograph.
Composer: Nick Powell.
Video: Luke Halls.
Costume: Christina Cunningham.
Dialect coach: Michaela Kennen.
Fight director: Bret Yount.
Assistant director: Debbis Hannan.
Associate designer: Bronia Housman.
Associate sound: Helen Skiera.

2014-07-29 13:28:39

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