It’s the future – the near future – and the Internet has morphed into a place where people can live alternate realities. Sound familiar? The boundary lines between reality and virtual reality have begun to blur. So, does it matter what you say, think or do in this make-believe world? And if it’s not inhabited by people but merely virtual substitutes, then is it anybody’s business what goes on? After all, it’s not reality, is it? Welcome to Jennifer Hayley’s, The Nether, directed by Justin Martin.
This is a disturbing, uncomfortable play. Not in a graphic ‘hit you in the face’ kind of way but in understatement and suggestion. Much is told in flashback, or is it more like a ‘grainy’ recovered memory? Your imagination is left to fill in the gaps.
The set is a forest of flat computer screens juxtaposed with real trees. At the centre is a ‘creepy’ kind of Victorian nook. Detective Morris (Katie Fitchett) interrogates Sims (Kim Knuckey), who procures under-aged girls for men to engage with in the Nether. He’s calm and almost ‘grandfatherly’. There are the men, Doyle (Alan Faulkner) and Woodnut (Alec Snow), handsome and dapper yet profoundly broken.
Then there is the girl, Iris. Danielle Catanzani is deeply unsettling as the dramatic crux of this play. Naieve but knowing – removed and distant, yet exuding a Victorian kind of innocence. She can hold a soft toy or an axe with equal conviction.
As Morris says, at one point in pregnant understatement, “images and ideas create reality.” It’s an idea that stretches back to Plato, but reinvents itself today, where online anonymity meets real world consequences.
Until Oct 7. Reginald Theatre, Seymour Centre, Cnr City Rd and Cleveland St, Chippendale. $38-$42+b.f. Tickets & Info: www.seymourcentre.com or Ph. (02) 9351 7940
Reviewed by Greg Webster.