I missed the UK premiere of Jennifer Haley's The Nether at the Royal Court last summer where it was staged in a co-production with Headlong Theatre, so I'm thrilled to have had the chance to see it now, newly transferred to the Duke of York's.
It proves, if nothing else, that there's still room for challenging - and chilling - new plays in the West End, otherwise crowded with jukebox musicals and celebrity revivals. There are no names in The Nether - the biggest star on the billing is probably designer Es Devlin, who designed the closing ceremony for the London 2012 Olympic Games. (And here she's designed a magic jewel box of a set that has already won her this year's Critics' Circle Theatre Award for Best Designer).
This icily cold, deeply uncomfortable drama about the darker desires being stirred and satisfied by the internet poses a series of fascinating arguments that grip as much as they alarm. Can play-acting paedophile fantasies in a 'safe' online alternative universe ever be justified? That's at the root of Haley's superb short play, and Jeremy Herrin's production gives it a churning momentum, as Stanley Townsend's Sims and David Calder's Doyle are interrogated over the secret online world they've respectively created and participate in by Amanda Hale's detective.
This provocative play about virtual reality brings us a step closer to the realities of where the internet may be dragging us.
"Jeremy Herrin oversees a starkly compelling production that benefits immeasurably from Es Devlin’s design, contrasting the colourful faux-innocence of The Hideaway with the slick, black functionalism of the technological age."
Fiona Mountford for The Evening Standard