Venue: Bondi Pavilion Theatre (Bondi NSW), May 28 – Jun 6, 2015
Playwright: Lally Katz
Director: Susanna Dowling
Cast: Skyler Ellis, Gertraud Ingeborg, Steven Kreamer, Odile Le Clezio, Andrew Lindqvist, Linden Wilkinson, Anne Wilson
In Lally Katz’s Neighbourhood Watch, two women find a special but unexpected connection, and their bond helps them grow into individually stronger persons. The relationship gives their lives greater meaning, and their story is a reminder that the social aspects of our being is crucial to the way we evolve and progress. Ana and Catherine are women who have needed time to find independence and self-worth, and Katz’s writing makes no bones about using them to inspire girls and women. We often define ourselves in relation to men, in fiction as well as in reality, and the play brings focus to how we let that transpire, and then how we can find emancipation.
Direction of the work by Susanna Dowling is very polite. There is a quietness to the production that hinders the wit of the writing, but although energy levels are low, its main characters are vivid enough for the audience to absorb all that the show wishes to impart. The play is set in many different locations, so scene changes are tricky, and not always handled with enough elegance. Spacial use requires greater inventiveness to prevent distractions and plot confusion. On a brighter note, music is beautifully utilised in the production, with composer Steven Kreamer’s work adding a sophisticated and emotional dimension to proceedings
Lead characters are performed well, although disappointingly restrained. The story is about intimacy, but there is insufficient vivacity between personalities, and they never feel close enough for the narrative to become poignant. Ana is played by Gertraud Ingebors, whose dry sense of humour charms the audience. Her work is convincing and evocative, but the actor seems to have trouble finding enough chemistry with colleagues. Anne Wilson is a likeable Catherine, with a warm and tender presence, but some of her depictions of heavier emotions call for greater authenticity. Like Wilson, Skyler Ellis is immediately endearing in the supporting role of Ken. The part is considerably lightweight by comparison, but Ellis steps up to the mark at every opportunity to showcase his excellent comedic abilities.
The characters in the story connect, but the production feels distant. There is enough lucidity for everything to make sense, but in a cool and slightly detached manner. The shattered dreams and broken hearts in Neighbourhood Watch do not translate with great passion and urgency. Although we hear the message, we want also to understand how it feels to be the people on stage. The live medium of theatre bears the right circumstances to affect its captive audience like no other art form can, and it needs to use that rare and uniquely exciting proximity to spark something visceral, so that its revelations can impress even deeper.