Tag Archives: the nether

My picks for 2015

With 2015 only days away, I’ve already got my eye on several shows coming up in 2015:

The Railway Children at King’s Cross Station
16th December 2014 to 6th September 2015
Already in preview at its new specially built home in King’s Cross, I first saw this stage adaptation of E. Nesbit’s famous tale when it was at Waterloo’s old Eurostar terminal.  If the words “My Daddy! Oh my Daddy!” cause you to have something in your eye all of a sudden, you should definitely make time to see the wonderful staging of this enchanting family show.

The Ruling Class at Trafalgar Studios
16th January 2015 to 11th April 2015
James McAvoy returns to the stage as Jack, “a possible paranoid schizophrenic with a Messiah complex, who inherits the title of the 14th Earl of Gurney after his father passes away in a bizarre accident. Singularly unsuited to a life in the upper echelons of elite society, Jack finds himself at the centre of a ruthless power struggle as his scheming family strives to uphold their reputation.” 

The Nether at The Duke of York’s Theatre
30th January 2015 to 25th April 2015
A very well-earned transfer of this exceptional play from its stint at The Royal Court earlier in 2014 – the vast majority of the original cast will be reprising their roles.  Set in the unspecified near future, the script tackles the uneasy subject of how to deal with paedophilia.  It presents the audience with a very real dilemma – yet it never tells you how you should feel about it.  You decide that for yourself.  I will definitely be going back for a second viewing.

The King’s Speech – UK Tour
5th February 2015 to 8th June 2015
This is the stage adaptation of the film which won more awards than you could shake a sceptre at. It had an outing on the West End a few years ago, but it was perhaps timed a little too close to the DVD release for it to fly. This production is starting in Chichester and touring the country from there, with Jason Donovan playing Aussie speech therapist, Lionel Logue. Perhaps now the time is right for this show to return to the stage.

Jason Donovan King's Speech

A View From The Bridge at the Wyndham’s Theatre
10th February 2015 to 11th April 2015
A recommendation from a fellow theatre blogger, Jake Orr.  In his words: “The most breathtaking synergy between direction, design and text I’ve seen in theatre… …Seriously, if you’ve not seen the show it is transferring to the West End in 2015, book now and hold your breathe at the end, you won’t have a choice but to.”  I’m prepared to take it on good faith that it’ll be every bit as amazing as described!

The Producers – UK Tour
6th March 2015 to 11th July 2015
Much as I hate to be swayed by a celebrity cast, I do love Ross Noble (he joins the cast from 18th May). A musical about making the worst musical ever – with songs like Springtime For Hitler is my kinda show.

Gypsy at the Savoy Theatre
28th March 2015 to 25th July 2015
Just about all of my more musically-inclined theatre blogging friends have been raving about this ever since they saw it at the Chichester Festival Theatre.  Again, I’m willing to believe them that this is going to be good.

Imelda-Staunton-Momma-Rose-co-in-Gypsy.-Photo-Johan-Persson-e1413325106852

The Audience at the Apollo Theatre
21st April 2015 to 25th July 2015
I saw the cinema screening of The Audience starring Helen Mirren – a fantastic play based on the imagined conversations between Her Maj and the Prime Minister du jour.  All 12 of them.  Kristin Scott Thomas takes to the stage in a play which is a fascinating insight into the woman who has the right “to be consulted, to encourage and to warn”.  For those who would happily do away with the monarchy, this play might persuade you that there’s a lot to be said for one piece of continuity that holds fast from one government to the next.

Shakespeare’s Globe New Season
From 23rd April 2015
In a bid to repair the damage done by my English teachers at secondary school and sixth form college (and University, to be honest), I’m slowly working my way through seeing lots of plays at Shakespeare’s Globe in the hope that they’ll be less boring on stage than they were in the classroom.  The Merchant of Venice was the first play I saw when the Globe opened (I was studying it for GCSE, which kind of ruined it) and I’m also looking forward to Measure For Measure, which has some familiar characters like Falstaff, so I’m hoping it’ll be funny rather than the painfully dull chore that it was for A-Level.

You Me Bum Bum Train
Dates to be confirmed
All aboard! YMBBT – one of the greatest immersive theatre companies in existence – have set the wheels in motion for a 2015 show. It’s all very secretive, but reportedly, audience members are sent through one by one into a series of situations which you probably wouldn’t encounter in your everyday life. From driving a JCB digger to conducting an orchestra to leading a dawn raid with armed police, you become the star of the show. What they have lined up this time is a closely guarded secret and the less you know, the better.  Apparently.

Of course there’s loads I want to see – the full list is here.

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The Nether – Royal Court

Last night, I walked out of The Royal Court in dumbstruck silence.  

Presumably the same went for the others around me who just weren’t saying anything for a few minutes.  Then the buzzy chatter began – my head was fizzing with questions and trying to find my own answers to them.  Because paedophilia – and how to deal with it – is one of those tricky topics that causes a sharp intake of breath and for people to choose their words VERY carefully.  Yet The Nether simply presents a situation without ever telling you how to feel about it.  The benefit of this being a One Act play is that it allows plenty of time for discussion in the bar after – and there was a lot of that.

Ultimately, The Nether is set somewhere in the unspecified near future where people create an online identity and “indulge their every desire”.  While there are a few echoes of the virtual reality game Second Life, your actions online are policed and have ramifications in the real world; in this case, a virtual character having an unhealthy interest in virtual children.  It begs the difficult question of whether giving paedophiles a designated online space for their urges would help to protect real children, or whether it runs the risk of normalising (and possibly even condoning) their behaviour, thus putting real children in more danger.   

Animations by Luke Hall. Photo by Johan Persson.

We begin in an interrogation room: the uncomfortable task of playing Mr Sims/Papa falls to Stanley Townsend.  There is no apologising for who he is.  He is confident, arrogant and all his lines laced with the threat of what he might do in the real world if they rescind his login…. and what others like him might do if they delete The Hideaway, the realm he has created – its purpose completely at odds with its look of wholesome Edwardian charm.  I’ve seen some reviewers describe this play as ‘harrowing’.  (1984 was harrowing.  I would call this unsettling and sinister).  His interviewer is Morris (Amanda Hale) a woman who, while determined to exact the full force of the law, finds herself in a very tricky position, not least because of the complex dilemma of this particular case.

I know several who’ve felt very uneasy about the fact that there’s a child in the cast of The Nether – precociously played by Isabella Pappas.  But something in the back of my mind knew that the writer and director would have to draw some clear boundaries with what you can and cannot ask a child actor to do, especially in a play about paedophilia.  So we see the conversation beforehand and the impending child sex abuse is all implied (and then we conveniently switch back to the interrogation room right before anything is ‘required to happen by the script’ for want of a better term).  Also at the Hideaway is Woodnut (Ivanno Jeremiah), a guest who seems more interested in what goes on there than in participating.

Zoe Brough and Stanley Townsend. Photo by Luke Persson.

There is something quite interesting at the heart of this play in that it has become the norm for everyone to have an online presence in The Nether and that it also gives you the total freedom to be anyone you want to be.  So while Mr Sims finds his freedom in being an exact replica of himself, other characters have chosen to forge themselves a totally different identity.  Morris’ other interviewee is Doyle (David Beames), a man who seems thoroughly uncomfortable about admitting to how he spends his time at The Hideaway, not least because in the real world, he is a teacher and has a very real fear that his wife and students might find out ‘who he really is’.  A good thriller will give you a plausible set up, hook you in, intrigue you and throw in a few red herrings along the way.  It is right towards the end of the play that it dawns on us that Doyle is not an abuser, but a willing abusee.  

But the thing that stood out for me most about this play was the incredible set by Es Devlin.  Behind the interrogation room is a large screen filled with surveillance footage.  Every time we visit The Nether, this screen pixellates into the geometric shapes of the in-world characters (exquisite computer animations by Luke Hall), and then rises to a perfect realisation of that scene, right down to the synchronicity of Papa swinging Iris around the room.  The clever use of carefully angled mirrors and trees gives a kaleidoscopic effect that makes the backdrop look as though the forest outside goes on forever and ever.

David Beames and Stanley Townsend. Photo by Johan Persson.

This is a thought provoking play which asks a lot of very difficult questions about the internet and the implications of being yourself.  I’m not sure I can answer the questions raised, but the play doesn’t provide any answers either, and nor would I want it to.