Director: Scott Andrew
Manawatu Theatre Society
Before you read this review there is something important to know: my daughter plays a main role and I am going to say she’s amazing because she really is. This affects my credibility, I have none, I shouldn’t really be doing this—but I am.
For a change I didn’t attend opening night for this show—here’s why. There are two girls sharing the role of ‘Iris’, one of them is my daughter Faith Offord and the other is Jenna Shapleski on alternating nights. Opening night was Jenna’s night and the Mum in me took precedence over the reviewer in me—I wanted to see Faith’s portrayal first. I look forward to attending a showing soon where Jenna is playing the role of Iris. With a team of family and friends it was a wonderful party of supporters to turn up at The Globe with to see our wee star shine.
A simple set awash with blue light greeted us and evoked the blue glare that shines out from our computer screens. The Nether’s opening scene is set in an interrogation room where Mr Sims (Glen Eustace) is being interrogated by Morris (Hannah Pratt). The rest of the show jumps between the interrogation room, in real life, and ‘The Hideaway’ in The Nether. Hold onto your seats, this show blurs the lines between fantasy and real-life. Hannah Pratt’s portrayal of Morris was strong and took us on a journey of emotion—is she the good-guy or the bad-guy? Similarly Mr Sims traversed a line between good and bad—but is he on the bad side of good or on the good side of bad? Glen Eustace kept us guessing as he toyed with not just our emotions but with those of Doyle (Danny Goodman), Iris (Faith Offord/Jenna Shapleski) and Mr Woodnut (Michael Salmon).
It’s an eerie moment when a young Iris enters ‘the hideaway’ looking like a porcelain doll but acting in ways that are alarming for a young girl. The relationships depicted between Iris and Papa, and Iris and Mr Woodnut are unusual and unsettling. Director Scott Andrews has been careful with the management of these relationships and navigates the space well. Faith Offord (MY DAUGHTER!!!!) played a touching role as Iris. She was tender, articulate and a master of technique—just saying. The trust and connection on stage between Michael Salmon (who managed his difficult role with delicacy) and Faith Offord was evident as was the relationship between Glen Eustace and Faith. This extended the audience a comfortable space to connect with the content. Danny Goodman’s performance was exceptional and it’s hard to say much more without bringing spoilers into play.
There’s a lot of dialogue in this production but the subject material —how much we know about who and what we’re dealing with on the internet and who’s policing it—is riveting. It plays out like a bit of a ‘who dunnit’ but also challenges our perceptions of reality, and right and wrong.
The set was well used throughout the show despite its minimal presentation it somehow was very easily transformed from scene to scene. Live music added to the eerie scenario at the hands of Elijah Graham. In fact a light touch of everything: set, music and lighting really threw emphasis onto the story and the actors who carried the weight of delivering an intricate narrative well.
This is the first time that award-winning The Nether has been shown in New Zealand and it certainly has a lot to say. This production was tight—nothing was over or under done—it struck exactly the right note.
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