In The Net

Misha Levkov
Jermyn Street Theatre
Jermyn Street Theatre

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Anna (Anya Murphy), Laura (Carlie Diamond) and the Immigration official (Tony Bell) Credit: Steve Gregson
Anna (Anya Murphy) and Harry (Hywel Simons) Credit: Steve Gregson
Anna (Anya Murphy) and Hala (Suzanne Ahmet ) Credit: Steve Gregson

The peculiar plot of In The Net set in 2025 is ambitious without having any clear purpose or direction. Lots of possible themes are chucked in from climate change to Buddhist meditation, Jewish rituals, refugees and family grief but never really explored. There is also for no apparent reason a mention of Rosa Luxembourg and a number of references to Hegel.

The characters lack realism partly because of the awkward dialogue that can be distracting. Thus in the first scene when Anna is talking to her dad Harry about her mother, she says, “I could only breathe because she was pumping my heart. She was throbbing inside me.” To which he replies, “Brinda was writing with the right hand and feeding you with the left.”

It's not only the conversations that take on an otherworldly sound. The characters themselves seem to be yearning for magic realism. Laura (Carlie Diamond), aged 21, is grieving the death of her mother Miriam by knitting an eruv across her local area in North London. She calls it a “lane of safety” that can “wake people up to what is happening” and will be “teaching ourselves how to change”. Her stepsister Anna (Anya Murphy) refers to it as “an avenue of the future”.

Meanwhile, their father Harry (Hywell Simons) is busy trying to sell their home so they can perhaps move closer to the sea.

Laura, the only member of the Eruv Action Group she created, takes her proposal to a council meeting declaring it stands for “free movement”, which echoes her mother’s concern for migrants, one of whom, Hala, is still being hosted by the family.

Throughout the play, a belligerent immigration official (Tony Bell) keeps checking on Hala (Suzanne Ahmet) who has fled from Syria where her husband was murdered. He says he’s “pissed red” with having “to run all the gamuts” with her and warns her that “it never does to bite the hand that slaps you.”

The council whose main business is an environmental crisis in which “people are drowning and the planet is burning” announces a rule on water rations. They are unsympathetic to Laura’s eruv proposal. One member tells her that “instead of helping with the draught, you tie the water in knots”. Another even refers to it as potentially creating a ghetto.

The cast works hard to breathe life into these rather odd characters but the only dramatic tension the play probably generates is the frustration of audience members trying to understand what’s going on.

Reviewer: Keith Mckenna