The Girl Next Door was originally performed live at the Stephen Joseph Theatre with a socially distanced audience. Not wanting anyone to miss out, the company also captured the live performance on film, to be streamed on-demand. Written and directed by Alan Ayckbourn, the play cleverly contrasts national crises past and present.
The play begins in the height of the pandemic, and then adds in a historical focus that draws on World War II. Deeply frustrated actor Rob Hathaway is struggling to find work after his character was written out of a World War II television drama. On top of that, with a history of failed marriage and depression it would seem life couldn’t get much worse, when he finds himself forced into lockdown with his business-woman sister.
Then, Rob notices a new woman hanging out the washing next door. Immediately drawn to her, he steps through her garden and finds himself back in the 1940’s. What follows is a surprising love story that has some thought-provoking comparisons between past and present: rationing and panic buying; lockdowns and air-raids. The Girl Next Door also highlights the amusing and frustrating familiarities we’ve experienced in the past year: attending Zoom meetings half dressed and being thrust into unwanted company.
The script is clever and playful with both comical and poignant moments that are beautifully delivered by the cast of four: Bill Champion, Naomi Peterson, Alexandra Mathie and Linford Johnson are totally convincing in their characters and embodied delivery. What’s more, the wonderfully detailed set, designed by Kevin Jenkins, really assists in conveying the concept and differentiating between the two periods.
Unlike some streamed theatre performances which feel more like films, The Girl Next Door beautifully captures the live theatre atmosphere so one feels more like an audience member, and the added element of subtitles adds an accessibility to the performance. At two hours it’s a long time to be looking at a screen, but definitely worth it in this instance.
The Girl Next Door is available to stream until 19th September 2021. More details can be found here.