What if you could do anything? Indulge every fantasy, pursue every desire? In the Nether, the imagined virtual playground that lends its title to Jennifer Haley’s new play, you can. This dark sci-fi thriller looks at what might happen if digital technology allowed us to have total freedom – and where that freedom might ultimately take us. While The Nether might be made up, Haley’s exploration of virtual reality has some terrifyingly resonant points to make about technology that is not all so far from that we already engage with on a daily basis. 15 years on from the Wachowski’s The Matrix, we still seem to be fascinated by the idea of virtual worlds – both their possibilities and their dangers. Some scientists have even suggested that we are already living in a computer simulation, but unhelpfully they conclude that there is no way of knowing.
Headlong theatre company
Headlong, a theatre company who have prided themselves on being forward-looking in their use of technology – think back to Enron and Earthquakes in London - would seem to be the perfect fit for dramatising these difficult ideas. This production will be the first to be helmed by new artistic director Jeremy Herrin, so we’re keen to see what direction he takes the company in. For this production, Headlong has joined forces with the Royal Court, bringing new play expertise and visually inventive staging. The video designs so integral to this production are created by BAFTA winner Luke Halls, who has worked alongside the Kanye West Yeezus tour set designer Es Devlin. The work of these two incredible designers is unmissable: Devlin’s and Halls’ Olympics Closing Ceremony design in 2012 epically took the international stage by storm.
Digital Revolution on stage
The Nether joins a sudden spate of productions prodding at the impact of digital technology on our lives, following an investigation of communications spying in James Graham’s Privacy and Hannah Jane Walker and Chris Thorpe’s I Wish I Was Lonely, which explores our worryingly dependent relationship with our mobile phones. It was followed at the Court by another internet-themed offering, Tim Price's irritating intentional type-o titled, Teh Internet is Serious Business. While this showed an innovative way of performed the digital, it was The Nether that sent shivers down our spines.
Culture Whisper says: The Nether play review ★★★★★
Deeply uncomfortable and thoroughly plausible, Jennifer Haley’s horrific vision of the future gets under your skin in a way that’s rare for theatre. The stunning set design uses technology and projections to create a new stage language. The cast of four upholds the eerie reality with aplomb, with a particularly penetrating performance from Stanley Townsend as Papa, who made our skin crawl, and Sims, who provoked an involuntary sympathy. This is the best thing the Court has seen in a while.
This was one of the most shiningly stunning shows we saw this year and it will definitely be one of our best West End shows, 2015. If you missed it at the Royal Court, book now, and book fast to get the Duke of York’s theatre’s best seats.
|What||The Nether, Duke of York's Theatre|
|Where||Duke of York's Theatre, St Martin's Lane, London, WC2N 4BG | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Leicester Square (underground)|
30 Jan 15 – 25 Apr 15, 7:30 AM – 10:00 PM
|Price||£10 - 32|
|Website||Book tickets via the Royal Court|