Jan. 18-28| Firehall Arts Centre
Tickets and info: $24, firehallartscentre.ca
When is a virtual crime an actual crime? What is reality?
Those questions are at the heart of American playwright Jennifer Haley’s provocative work The Nether.
The play, which premiered in California in 2013, is set in the near future, when the Internet is packed with a huge network of virtual reality realms, and no fantasy is left unfulfilled.
“All the platforms have become more integrated into our lives. It is just an absolute integration into our normal routines,” says the production’s director Chris Lam.
Of course with that wide-open landscape comes questions and issues. Issues that a young detective faces as it becomes apparent that one realm called The Hideaway is where pedophiles freely roam. The detective interviews the realm’s creator and questions of morality and ethics, both in the real and the VR world, land squarely on the table.
Lissa Neptuno and David Bloom star in The Nether, a new play on at the Firehall Arts Centre. RAYMOND SHUM / PNG
“I was interested in morality and virtual reality, and whether forms of morality should be governed, especially as virtual reality became closer to feeling real and then as I wrote the play it really became an exploration of intimacy in virtual reality,” said Haley in an online interview from 2013.
While the play’s foundation is the VR world, audience members need not worry if their idea of virtual reality is a book.
“No not at all,” said Lam when asked if knowledge of the deep web would help an audience member. “I would say the playwright has done a good job at taking a few nods from detective stories, crime procedurals, film noir. There’s little hints at qualities like ‘oh yeah, this feels like an old fashioned detective story.’”
While the play looks into the advanced world of the Internet, the production remains uncluttered and free of gimmicks.
“Simplicity is the thing for this one. It is really about the characters and the story and the performances themselves. It’s very self-contained. It’s all about the characters and their relationships and information and them transforming themselves,” said Lam.
This is Lam’s and the cast’s second go with the work, that premiered at the Fringe Festival last fall.
“The great thing about the play is that you know there are a lot of these interesting twists and then their (audience) minds are blown a bit, they didn’t see it coming,” said Lam.
The Nether is produced by Redcurrant Collective and features David Bloom, Lissa Neptuno, Linden Banks, Julia Siedlanowska, and Douglas Ennenberg.