The Nether - Is This Our Future?
The Nether is a delightfully textured piece about catharsis, crime and how to navigate ethics and morality when reality isn’t reality any more. It will make you feel—disgust, temptation, anger, shock, love, sympathy, sadness, horror and pleasure; perhaps all at once—and it will make you think. Is this where we’re headed in our society? What would it mean for what we call our lives? Our identities? Is this “Nether” a blessing or a curse?
Written by Jennifer Haley, the Vancouver Fringe incarnation of The Nether was produced by Redcurrant Collective, a local company including many faces that will be familiar to you if you see theatre in Vancouver (or even this year's Fringe) on a semi-regular basis.
The Nether raises some very important questions. Initially, a virtual reality that engages all the senses and has no consequences sounds idyllic, but experiences are always real and that creates consequences in the unplugged world—perhaps not the ones that the porn police are expecting, but consequences nonetheless. Papa (David Bloom) makes a good case. He is providing a service to his clients and to humanity: a safe, consensual, cathartic environment accessible only to those over the age of eighteen (staff and clientelle alike) for paedophiles and those with more dangerous sexual proclivities. “It's about pure relationship;” that is, as long as you don't get too close. Someone always breaks the rules and as soon as real human emotions get involved, pain spills over into the waking world, where the stakes are high.
I was worried the staging would get static. And I did get a bit tired of the interrogation setup, but there was enough movement in time and space to keep it interesting. The ever-present table and light became ominous, providing a constant reminder of the context within which we experience alternate realities.
Julia Seidlanowska’s performance as Iris is astonishing and all of the actors managed a blend of ambiguity and intensity that was most titillating. I did find Lissa Neptuno’s Morris and Linden Banks’s Doyle a bit shouty and unsupported in one of the earlier interrogation scenes, but they both more than redeemed themselves later, revealing deep undercurrents of emotion... well, I really think you should just see it yourself. I daren’t give too much away.
The world of The Nether is murky and you’ll emerge from its depths changed. Experiencing live theatre changes us too and, just like life in the Nether, cannot exist without consequences. Neither can your life be the same after seeing all sides of this intriguing story.