The ever-welcoming, pocket-sized Jermyn Street Theatre, a stone’s throw from Piccadilly Circus, is currently hosting the premiere production of In The Net by first-time playwright Misha Levkov, produced by WoLab: “a working laboratory for artists to create… the opportunity to have a go”.
As always at this venue, the acting is of a high standard, always trying to get the best out of the material.
Harry, the father, is perhaps Levkov’s most fully written role. We are told many times that his wife has just died and that now the family cannot afford to live in Kentish Town but are going to move to Eastbourne, the reason for the chosen venue being that there is a drought and that “if the drought gets worse it’s good to be near water”. Hywel Simons inhabits this character believably giving it light and shade whereas his two daughters Laura(Carlie Diamond) and half-sister Anna (Anya Murphy) seem to spend most of the time arguing, which can get relentless. Diamond has a very vivacious, expressive face and, like Simons, tries to make the most of what she is given. Anya seems underwritten until Act Four of the play when she is given more to do.
Tony Bell has the unenviable task of creating three roles, that of an immigration officer, councillor and estate agent, each of which he differentiates well and provides some much-needed humour.
Suzanne Ahmet is Hala, a refugee from Syria staying with the Jewish family, and seemingly not wanting to move to Eastbourne.
The convoluted plot involves the creation of an “eruv” in Kentish Town during a period of drought in a couple of years’ time when water is severely rationed. The playscript/programme tells us “the play is set during a twenty-four period 10-11 July 2025”. It would have helped if the playwright had clearly explained what an “eruv” was: it is in fact a ritualistic space in which Jews can work on the Sabbath, according to Wikipedia. At the start of Act Four (after the interval) Laura, Anna and Hala festoon the stage with coloured twine which, if I understand correctly, is supposed to delineate the area of the “eruv”. In fact, it just makes it impractical to use the forestage at all!
We are told that the set is “a cluttered sitting-room….wood floors, high ceiling, half-curtained windows….shabby ample sofa, two pillowed chairs, a good-sized desk” but in fact Ingrid Hu’s design is nothing like that, consisting of off-white gauzes and window frames with no furniture at all apart from wooden boxes of varying heights behind the gauze, meaning that Jermyn Street’s shallow stage is made even shallower. There is no furniture as described in the script.
The lighting designer, Jonathan Chan, lights the foot of the various boxes, as well as projecting a map important to the plot on the floor of the stage, without having realised that, although sight-lines are excellent in many respects at this venue, most of the audience is unable to see the floor of the stage, except for the front row.
Matt Eaton is the sound designer, often using music or ‘sound’ as underscoring behind the dialogue which at times seems unnecessary, and the soundtrack played when the audience is entering the auditorium is too prominent and irritating.
Director Vicky Moran must be congratulated for the ways that she has tried to shape this play and both she and the hard-working actors certainly give it tremendous pace at times, but one wishes that it had more obvious structure and clarity of purpose.
An evening for those who like to have to work when they visit the theatre.
Review by John Groves
Laura and Anna, half-sisters, plan a grand net stretching across the skyline of North London as a way to unite their community. But not everyone’s convinced. Meanwhile, Hala, a Syrian refugee staying with the family, finds herself caught in a tangle of immigration red tape. With time running out, drought spreading, and the authorities closing in, the net becomes their arena in the pursuit of justice, joy and safety.
In the Net
BY MISHA LEVKOV.
PRESENTED BY WOLAB.
DIRECTED BY VICKY MORAN.
12 JANUARY – 4 FEBRUARY 2023