Tuesday 13th August 2019 at the Tristan Bates Theatre.
Zöe Guzy-Sprague’s The Net takes women from behind the scenes of war and conflict and places them centre stage. It explores a breadth of ideas within the realms of conflict, relationships and the idea of home in relation to territory and it’s a narrative which manages to span both the personal and the political very well.
The story follows the chance meeting of four women. Two have been tasked with reinforcing a net at the border, two have travelled many miles from ‘home’, driven by danger and tragedy and they’re desperate to be let across. In this colliding of the women, Guzy-Sprague is able to paint a broad picture of both their similarities and differences while bringing a sense of humanity to characters who at first appear coldly resolute in their rejection of those in need.
It’s certainly a strength of Guzy-Sprague’s writing that the individuals depicted vary in age, culture and connections with one another – those variations are the basis for much of the content which intrigues here, exploring the divides even within the relationships on the same side of the net. It’s also interesting to see women in defensive roles usually so prescriptively male. To see a female deny others safe passage and understanding is odd; to hear them declaring the land the be at the root of their very sense of self and worthy of bloodshed and violence even more so.
It’s unfortunate that the performances do feel uncertain and uneven to begin with – likely down to opening night laying of the ground – but they do notably improve steadily across the production until each cast member is able to show their strengths before the close of the show. It’s impressive to see such demanding subject matter delivered in an intimately staged (Director: Samara Gannon) four hander by Marta da Silva, Sue Moore, Yvonne Wan and Sarah Agha and the small scale supports the dramatic impact of some of Guzy-Sprague’s most intense writing extremely well.
There is a staging issue with The Net which is in need of mention and rather ironically, it’s the namesake itself. To have the stage space divided by a literal net is symbolically sound and at first it’s aesthetically bold. It soon becomes apparent however that with the various rags attached, it’s difficult to see the women on both sides as the view is obscured significantly – that may be an artistic intention but in truth it doesn’t allow for a fully rewarding experience of the story as a whole.
The Net is a strong piece of new writing which looks at big ideas in broad terms just as well as it does on an individual level and Guzy-Sprague’s writing at times hauntingly resonant. It’s a play which manages to point out both sides of a controversial subject while attributing tough personas and dark driving forces to those usually placed firmly in the roles of mothers and carers. All in all, it’s a well written and engaging study of human nature beyond the usual representations and it’s definitely worth seeing.
The Net plays the Tristan Bates Theatre as part of the Camden Fringe until August 17th 2019 and you can find tickets here.
Photography: Ewa Ferdynus