The Nether

“You track them like bloodhounds. Now you want to tell them what to do. Or rather, what not to do. What not to think. What not to feel.”

“You said it yourself – The Nether is becoming our contextual framework for being. If that happens, the same laws should apply”

I discovered The Nether by chance. A friend had a spare ticket and when I’m invited to a dystopian I say yes. Jennifer Haley has crafted a short, but deep play. And it feels very timely. In the UK there have been some high profile pedophilia cases. SOPA has made people question what we expect from a service like the internet. And as I write Facebook is having a crackdown on users with pseudonyms. All of this is fits and weaves into the fabric of the world created. All warranting more attention beyond the narrative.

The Nether, in the play, is a virtual reality environment that is used as commonly as the internet is today. People work in The Nether, people are taught in The Nether. What is real becomes an evermore subjective question. The play follows an investigation into the legitimacy of a realm known as The Hideaway. On the surface this is about pedophilia, but in a virtual world where everyone behind their avatar is an adult that stance is anachronistic. But the exploration into legitimacy, legality and intent leads to some very muddy waters.

The Nether offers no answers, but offers a multifaceted space to ask questions. If Sims actions are entirely legal should he be investigated in the first place? Or is there a moral duty to consider the implications of the grooming that may occur? How much power should a civil body have over the actions of the individual? What is the nature of identity divorced from your physical body? What is the value of agency and freedom within a controlled environment?

The Royal Court production compelled me enough to pick up the script. There are many ideas packed into this play of just over an hour’s length. This production really engaged me. It has made me want to look deeper.

And keep on questioning.

 

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