Where do we draw the line between right and wrong, fact and fiction, reality and fantasy? The topic covered in The Nether surrounds the taboo subject of paedophilia. Set in the year 2050 (scarily close to the time we actually live in), the play explores a world where virtual gaming has crossed into a sinister world where having sex with children is possible with no legal (or moral) reprocessions. How far would we want to go to satisfy our darkest urges and if it were technically legal, how could we say it is wrong?
You could argue that no one would surely ever go this far, into a world this dark but when you think about it, it’s already happening. Chris Stokel-Walker says “Does a half-hour hacking and slashing your way through the fantasy world of World of Warcraft provoke murderous feelings in real life? Are you more likely to pick up a gun and pick of strangers because you have spent the previous day in a band of brothers in Call of Duty?” Victims of the 2001 Columbine high-school massacre sued 25 video games companies, claiming they influenced the youngsters to carry out the shootings.
The Nether would not be what it is without the incredible set design (Es Devlin), Video (Luke Halls), Lighting (Paul Pyant), Sound (Ian Dickinson) and Music (Nick Powell). These people combined bring the story to life through incredible music and visualisations, making the audience feel as if they were actually inside this parallel world.
The cast of five are well placed in their characters. Stanley Townsend plays Sims, the man who has created The Nether and is made to defend what he has done to Agent Morris (played by Amanda Hale). Ivanno Jeremiah (as Woodnut) brings a great smile to the show and Zoe Brough (one of four girls playing the role of Iris) manages to convey the message of a young girl giving herself to older men in a subtle and innocent manner. It is David Calder (as Doyle) who gives the shining performance in this play, bringing a soft and gentle nature to a character that would normally be perceived as a disgrace.
The Nether is a brave and powerful play that raises some very interesting and relevant issues around the digital world we live in and where we could be heading in the not so distant future. At just under an hour and a half, this one act play is tough to swallow but well worth the visit.
Reviewed by West End Wilma
Photo credit: Johan Persson
The Nether is playing at the Duke of Yorks Theatre until 25 April 2015. For more information and to book tickets click here.