Ginger Hibiscus | Ginger Hibiscus | The Nether at the Duke of York Theatre
Ginger Hibiscus | The Nether at the Duke of York Theatre
Ginger Hibiscus | The Nether at the Duke of York Theatre
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25 Feb REVIEW: The Nether at the Duke of York Theatre

“Just because it’s virtual doesn’t mean it isn’t real.” 

We live in a world where an online presence matters. Where a history of our Google searches can reveal intimate details about our physicality, desires, and aversions. Where the amount you can spend in physical cash, is altered just by logging in and making transfers. Where you can initiate and explore relationships without ever awkwardly sitting in a bar making smalltalk. So what happens online matters. Or does it? You might play a shoot-em-up online without any intention to ever even possess a gun. Or destroy a building in Minecraft when you’d never dream of actually flattening anything.

This distinction between the online and physical world – and the possibility of that line being a blurred one, underpins The Nether. Set in a near-future dystopia, the internet is no more, replaced by the nether, but with people abandoning a physical world we would probably no longer recognise and choosing to cross over to live perpetually inside this realm, a new and disturbing location, an online haven for depravity, appears within the vastness of the nether.

Deeply distressing, at times it’s a thoroughly uncomfortable watch. We all know that unsavoury things happen online, but we’re not used to having them foisted upon us. There are moments that you catch yourself, wondering quite how far the director’s dared to push it, hoping against hope that boundaries aren’t about to be violated. The intensity of that feeling sets an ethical context for the play, which serves as a deeply personal backdrop to the motorway pileup of moral, legal and practical perspectives explored therein.

It’s easy to sit and write about moral dilemmas. But it’s something else entirely to get an audience of people you’ve never met to discover them for themselves, internalise them, and to still be feeling and thinking about them, days later. The Nether does that quite magnificently. 80 minutes straight through, the play never loses momentum as idea after idea pile on top of each other, each intelligible due to the combination of brilliant script work from Jennifer Haley and staging from Jeremy Herrin.

The complex and visually stunning set from Es Devlin is the real highlight of the production, beautiful and ethereal and delivering surprise after surprise, piqued by arresting video imagery courtesy of Luke Halls. Such a sophisticated, intricate and well-judged set is the difference between this being a very good production and it being a great one. And it clearly falls in the latter.

The Nether has an amazing cast, astute set, and outstanding lighting. But these are nothing compared to what makes the play so memorable – its ideas. Thought-provoking on so many different levels, from the superficial consideration of how the physical and online worlds interact, to the philosophy of morality and questions like, “who are we, when we act without consequence?” it is unforgettable. The only way to describe it, is as phenomenal theatre.

Venue: Duke of York Theatre
For tickets and information:

Star Rating

Ginger Hibiscus don’t like using stars as a headline; we think they’re too reductionist, and that decision-making based on stars misses the point of a review. Just as you wouldn’t judge a personality using a five-point scale, theatre is multi-dimensional. So have a read, and then look at the stars afterwards.
Okay, fine, but how many stars do you give it? Click here