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The Nether

Photo by Ross Waldron

Catnip Productions and Seymour Centre present the Australian Premiere of THE NETHER, by Jennifer Haley, in the Reginald Theatre, the Seymour Centre, Chippendale. 13th September – 7th October.

THE NETHER is an American play by young playwright, Jennifer Haley. It premiered in 2013.

THE NETHER is set in the not too distant future: ‘Soon’, says the author. The nether is a development of the Internet – a virtual reality realm.

The Nether realm is

1. Another world for mythical creatures
2. Demon World.
3. A dimension of Evil or Imagination

The play begins in an interrogation room where a young female detective, Morris (Katie Fitchett) is investigating Sims (Kim Knuckey), a successful business man who has created the Hideaway – a Victorian world where the fantasy life of clients using avatars can be lived out to the full of the imagination within the rules of its originator. That in this realm, sexual predators can create their fantasies, even to the dismembering of their world, is the source of the provocative debate that it is at the crux of this challenging work.

It is a fiercely intelligent play.

Jennifer Haley is concerned with the ethics of technology and what constitutes a crime in an imaginative world. A world where avatars are used/permitted to act the inclinations of deviating minds, and whether it is better to have these places of existence in the Nether, that allows for extreme fantasies to take place, rather than for them to be perpetrated in the real in-world.

The play shifts from the bleak world of the interrogation space to the lush romantics of a Victorian house surrounded by forest where a young girl called Iris (Danielle Catanzariti) – an avatar, created by Doyle (Alan Faulkner) – interacts with Papa (also, Kim Knuckey) and a new visitor/avatar, Woodnut (Alec Snow). (The in-world identity of Woodnut is a shock of some scale.)

One never sees anything of distaste to disturb us, rather, it is the act of our imagination that fills that void and one is left as the play reveals its machinations and its subtle arguments, with an uneasiness, a sense of perplexed alarm, that provokes one to terrifying contemplations of the possibilities of the near ethical debates we must have in the not too distant future – ‘SOON’, as the playwright intimates.

Within limited budget restraints, Set Designer, Pip Runciman, has managed to create the worlds of the play with gripping effect, assisted by the atmospheric Lighting of Christopher Page, sustained with wonderful Sound Composition and Design by James Brown – the Sound is the enveloping power that helps us stay suspended in the notions and realms of the play.

Director Justin Martin has an intellectual grasp of the play and even though he has only been able to lead his company of actors to a just satisfactory explication of the men, women and creatures of the scenario, he leaves us disturbed and, maybe, morally ‘unclean’.

Witnessing this play is not easy, but better this provocation than the relative intellectual time wasting at the STC with its present production of DINNER. If you want a challenging night at the theatre that will lead to important debate and contemplation, then THE NETHER is worth a visit. Brave New World, indeed. This play will disturb as the recent production of 1984 did not.

N.B. Once again we have a Production program that has no biographical information about the writer. Of late, Sport For Jove, bAKEHOUSE and its associates, and now Catnip and the Seymour Centre, neglect to include the originator of the enterprise, the writer, from the program – all, but the writer – incredible disrespect, really.