There is something inherently intriguing about people-watching, whether from a pavement cafe or on the tube perhaps. Seeing a glimpse of other people’s unguarded lives is a bit like watching a soap opera, but in the absence of scriptwriters it’s left to your imagination to fill in the blanks. Ron Elisha’s Window, at the Bread and Roses Theatre, captivates the audience by taking this concept a few steps further and explores what happens when looking through a window becomes more like looking in the mirror.
Jimmy and Grace seem like a normal couple; along with their new born baby they occupy a fairly ordinary flat, but when one day Grace looks out the window and sees straight into the opposite flat – things change. The occupants never close their curtains, and are always naked, usually in the midst of some sexual act. At first, it’s amusing to Jimmy and Grace, a little titillating even, then they start to compare; the rampant sex lives of their neighbours puts their lacking in the bedroom department under the microscope.
Over the course of five years, the amusement turns to obsession for one of the characters, and the intrigue becomes a bizarre form of addiction, which impacts the day to day dynamic of the whole family. With no concrete facts, an entire life, including names, is created for the exhibitionists, and the consequences of such voyeurism fully realised.
The set works well, everything happens in the bedroom, and the bed and wire frame lampshades accurately depict ordinary living. A clothes rail is put to good use as the actors continually change clothes, in sharp contrast to their opposite numbers, whose beautiful and perfect naked bodies are often the topic of conversation. The actors look ‘out of the window’ towards the audience, there is a curtain there, but it’s rarely drawn.
Window is an incredibly well written two-hander, starting off slow you are wondering how the plot can possibly progress beyond staring out of a window, but it quickly layers up the drama to an emotional crescendo, by which point you are well and truly hooked. Phrases like “Oh my God” are repeated a little too often, but on the whole, it’s been constructed beautifully under the direction of Dave Spencer.
You would struggle not to believe Charles Warner and Idgie Beau, who play Jimmy and Grace respectively, weren’t an actual couple, they appear so natural together and the writing further demonstrates the characters love for each other. Idgie Beau, does a marvelous job of characterising a form of mental illness in to an emotional performance. Charles Warner really manages to get under the skin of Jimmy, in each scene he brings a more nuanced aspect to the character, brilliantly portraying frustration and fear, with a glint of hope.
In a world where we have unprecedented access to other people lives through social media, the line between what is, and isn’t, acceptable is becoming more and more blurred. Window is a gripping play about ordinary lives; perhaps that makes us, the audience, the ultimate voyeur, or maybe we’ve just been looking back through the window, filling in the blanks as we go.