We all rely upon the theatre to provide us with an escape from our realities, a place of pleasure and everlasting enjoyment. Although I do enjoy the temporary fairy tale happiness with a good musical or uplifting play, experimental theatre satisfies the curious mind and the writer’s tongue. Playing around with dark themes or society’s castouts, these productions should be applauded for not only forcing us to focus upon our realities, but being brave enough to challenge and question our society. With these thoughts, it was time to book my ticket to see The Nether.
Set in 2050, we thrust into an investigation room with a young detective, Morris, firing questions at old men, Sims and Doyle, and their activities within an online fantasy, known as the ‘Hideaway’. Silently groaning, I hated the fact that my brain was immediately set to work mode, no gentle opening, just the stunned silence, then the verbal ping pong across the table and an angry flip of the chair. Being quick to judge the predictable stereotypes of a dirty old man, I had no idea this production was going to involve a dramatic overload.
The Hideaway is represented as a grand white Victorian mansion surrounded trees and its inhabitants are Papa (Sims), a young child called Iris and a persistent guest called Woodnut . Now a strange man, who is named as Papa, already becomes a deeply disturbing watch as he complicates this paternal and romantic love. Yet it echoes today’s constant tragic reports of children being groomed online, and sometimes murdered, for what they deem was love. Our dependency upon technology can be frightening, especially those who begin the plagues of wandering usernames. We trust those within high authority to track their anonymity and hope their illegal activities will be punished.
Without trying to sound like Sims, the character I loved was little Iris, played by Isabella Pappas, as she covered her true identity with a high quality angelic innocence throughout the play. Losing the bouncing ball whilst playing jacks on stage, her professionalism should be applauded and created a sense of realism. Pappas has temporarily changed my dislike towards child actors as she left the drama school ego behind and created a believable yet vulnerable child dangled in front of the male cast along with the audience. For some reason, her performance reminded me of playing Habbo Hotel as a child. After school, my friends and I created characters, which looked nothing like us, free from our imperfections and over exaggerated with a conflicting personality. Debating over what hair colour would suit Princess MiMi, usually ended up being bright pink, and chatting to people from all over the world. The game was fun. But did I ever question who was behind the computer screen and whether they also saw it as “fun”? This made me think what would be the consequence of Iris and Sims meeting my character, Princess MiMi, within the Hideaway….I shudder to think.
Although my gut was twisting and turning over the dramatic tension, The Nether‘s selling point has to be the creative set design. It was visually stunning and inspiring to see something unusual. The Hideaway’s mirrors danced with reality and the constant suction between anonymity and identification created a consistent pace throughout. The computer graphics projected over the whole wall, submerging the audience into the virtual reality. Then, a small cutaway between the graphics reveals the stage. It was breathtakingly beautiful. After all, that’s what Sims would want us to appreciate…..right?
“Everything has been designed for your comfort”
More details on The Nether: http://thenethertheplay.co.uk/