Review: The Nether

By Chloe Codling

Rocket Theatre’s The Nether is an insightful exploration into whether it would ever be possible to live a life outside of consequence. Set in the not too distant future, the show interrogates the morality of purging your deepest and darkest desires within an online space.

The show revolves around an online virtual reality space called The Nether, in which your own imagination is the only limitation to what you can do. Users log in and join a ‘realm’, which is essentially an encrypted, online chat room which also facilitates physical sensation. The Hideaway is a realm created by the ominous figure of Papa, who employs young girls to invite users into the space, where guests purge their paedophilic urges.

The play raises questions about the extent to which we live our lives online. Importantly, The Nether is not presented as a place which is solely bad or completely immoral – opportunities for education and employment are also within this online space. These themes are particularly relevant in the wake of the pandemic, as more people now than ever are working from home or doing online university.

The acting is phenomenal throughout the show

Naturally, however, The Nether has its own version of the ‘dark web’. Users can gain access to pornographic material fairly easily, allowing them to partake in physical experiences which are criminalised in the real world. These people argue that ‘It’s all just images, and there is no consequence’ but this is brought into question as the dark origins and ramifications of The Nether are uncovered by the Inspector. As director states in the director’s note, the play interrogates whether crimes committed in an untouchable world can be prosecuted. Importantly, the answer presented by the play is not straightforward. The show complicates binary notions of right and wrong, moral and immoral.

Split into two sections, the stage setup works successfully. The foreground is a re-creation of an interrogation room, where Inspector Morris (Bhav Amar) questions Mr Sims (Alex Davies) and Mr Doyle (George Thomas), who are users of The Nether. The section onstage is the Hideaway, the online realm where Papa, his young girls and his guests interact. The show opens with a scene in the interrogation room between Inspector Morris and Mr Sims, in which they use terms such as realm, crossover, and shade. We learn the meanings of this terminology over the course of the play as information is gradually revealed about the twisted nature of The Nether.

Set up like a homely and comfortable living room, the Hideaway appears as a relaxed environment, helped by the soothing instrumental music playing softly in the background. Despite this inviting appearance, the Hideaway is actually a place of twisted child molestation, coercion, and rape. The creative team did a great job in establishing this juxtaposition. is convincing in her role as Iris, the nine-year old girl employed by Papa in the realm. The interactions between Papa and Iris are purposely unsettling.

The play has a highly professional flair, from lighting to staging to script, with some very compelling onstage performances

The acting is phenomenal throughout the show. plays a highly impassioned and fierce Inspector, and her dialogue with both Mr Sims and Mr Doyle is enrapturing. is great as Mr Sims/Papa, a perfect blend of charismatic and sinister. and also have excellent performances.

The show explores the potentially devastating nature of technology and the internet in an interesting and complex way. It had me hooked from start to finish, and I would highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys dystopian, Black Mirror-style stories. The play has a highly professional flair, from lighting to staging to script, with some very compelling onstage performances.

The irreversible consequences of technological reliance are issues unsolved by the end of the play. Papa’s ominous line at the show’s closure that “You don’t know what you’re doing by putting me out in the world, Inspector Morris” leaves you with the unsettling feeling that justice has perhaps not been served.

Get yourself down to the Assembly Rooms Theatre for the final two nights of this harrowing and thought-provoking play.

Image: Rocket Theatre Company

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