Crossing the line

Amanda Hale from Willesden stars in The Nether at The Royal Court
Amanda Hale from Willesden stars in The Nether at The Royal Court

Amanda Hale tells David Hennessy about her new play, Ripper Street’s missed opportunity with her character and throwing shoes at Andrew Scott’s head

“It’s rare that a piece addresses everything that you’re reading about in the paper, seeing on the news and worries you,” begins the London-Irish actress Amanda Hale of Jennifer Haley’s  The Nether which comes to London’s Royal Court Theatre.

Winner of the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize, The Nether centres around a virtual wonderland where people can bring every dark fantasy they have to life: “A man has perfected the art of sensation online so everything feels like life. It’s better than real life because it’s set in a future where there is environmental collapse and there’s not much left in the world so this guy has created a realm where there’s trees and streams. People are drawn to that as well as the other things he devised.”

A look at the news will tell you there are some depraved predators out there. The Nether’s storyline darkens with the question, should sexual deviants be allowed to live out their fantasies online in a virtual world? Sims, played by Dublin actor Stanley Townsend, argues that everyone is safer if they can while Amanda’s detective character argues against: “It’s all about where is the line?

“His argument is that he has created this realm where paedophiles can go and live out their fantasies of abusing and then murdering children but they’re not children because they’re avatars, the image of a child, and the people who control them are adults so there are no children involved, everyone is an adult, everyone is consenting.

“His view is that there are no consequences and there’s no harm caused and I play a detective who is determined to shut it down because she believes that as long as there are human beings involved whether they’re adults or not, there will be harm and the image does carry weight and it does have an influence on how people act in the real world. She thinks because there are real people involved, that has consequences. And it does in the play. As long as there are human beings involved there will always be emotions and it can’t be disconnected.”

With parents from Blackrock, Dublin and Swinford, Mayo, Amanda grew up in Willesden, North West London. Amanda was due to attend Oxford University before changing her mind and attending RADA. One of her early roles, in Tennessee Williams’ The Glass Menagerie at the Apollo Theatre saw Amanda nominated for two Evening Standard Awards in 2007, Outstanding Newcomer and Best Actress. Her screen credits include Dates, Being Human, The White Queen and the Dublin-filmed Ripper Street in which she played Matthew MacFadyen’s wife: “My dad’s from Dublin so it was good to be back there, I’ve got lots of family there.”

MacFadyen and Amanda’s Mr and Mrs Reid were haunted by the absence of their daughter. It was a mystery whether Emily was alive or dead but it seemed to have quite a lot to do with explaining why Detective Reid was the man he was. Amanda was disappointed this interesting back story was not to be explored in further series and did not return for series two: “They asked me to do the second series. It’s a boys’ series, they weren’t that interested in pursuing her character in her own right, it was always in the shadow of whatever the main storyline was with Matthew’s character. She was the wife and it wasn’t something I felt the need to go back to because it felt like I’d taken it as far as it could go in terms of what they wanted to do with her.

“They didn’t pursue that (the missing daughter story) and their ideas for the second series were more about a love triangle and that didn’t interest me. I just get frustrated with seeing female characters in things that have no storyline in their own right and I felt like I didn’t want to be part of that problem. It annoys me when I watch it on TV so I don’t want to do that if I can help it.”

Someone who recently starred at the Royal Court was Andrew Scott when he played the lead in Birdland: “That was brilliant. I just thought he was incredible.”

Amanda played Scott’s wife in Channel 4’s Dates when her character found him with another woman. “I got to throw a shoe at his head over and over again,” Amanda laughs remembering. “That was worrying, I did not want to hit Andrew Scott’s face because I think it’s worth quite a lot of money these days.”

For the full interview, see the July 12 Irish World. 

The Nether is at Royal Court Theatre from July 17 to August 9. For more information, go to:


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