Tucked away above the trendy Bistro Place restaurant, Checkpoint, Theatre Paradok’s most recent production, The Nether, is leaving audiences both haunted and intrigued.
In our current world, rapid technological advancements have provided us with more freedom than ever before. The internet, in particular, is providing unprecedented entertainment, information and connectivity. However, while we are all aware of online abuse’s existence, we do not know how these issues will evolve as the internet continues to develop. The Nether warns of one possible future.
Opening with an interrogation, this production creates immediate intrigue. As the audience picks up clues about this futuristic world, the disturbing nature of the play becomes apparent. The Nether, where the play gets its title from, is a virtual reality in which people create their own identities and live out the life they desire; the man being interrogated has created a pornographic realm with a dark side, advertising it as ‘an opportunity to live life outside of consequence’.
The actors convey the vulnerabilities of each character so effectively, confronting the dark desires of humanity in raw, evocative performances. Eilidh Northridge’s portrayal of Morris, the interrogator, is fantastic as she reveals cracks of sentiment in her character’s tough façade.
The staging itself does not allow the spectators to escape the more disturbing scenes. The traverse style of the stage ensures the action is level with the audience and monologues are often addressed towards us. Dark scenes within the pornographic virtual reality, individuals breaking down in the real world, and the haunting sound of a little girl’s laughter within scene transitions all take place in close proximity to audience members.
One character begins the performance already psychologically damaged by his time spent in the virtual reality: he despises his own human body and life, favouring his role as the character he has constructed in the Nether. This performance, by Angus McHarg, is a heart-wrenching portrayal of depression and as the story develops, the complexities within this character’s memories and lives are revealed.
This play dances between the reality we know and a realm created by pure human imagination and driven by desire. My only criticism would be that the effective pauses in dialogue were often ruined by music from the restaurant below; an unfortunate setting for such an incredible performance. The Nether is an excellent performance, rich with demonstrations of human frailty and peppered with dark warnings about our future.
Photo courtesy of Theatre Paradok