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Daniel Perks

Review: WINDOW – Bread and Roses Theatre, London

Window - The Bread & Roses Theatre Ron Elisha’s Window is a relaxed, natural two-hander that charts the emotional strain inherent in any couple’s relationship. Except in this case, the fights and fears that Grace (Idgie Beau) and Jimmy (Charles Warner) experience are reactions to their unexpected involvement in the sex life of a naked couple living across the street. At first, it’s a fascination, a piece of real-life entertainment – something to watch when curled up in bed with popcorn. But it quickly warps into a bleak mirror that reflects insecurities in their own marriage back at them. In this case, this is a Window into the soul.

Dave Spencer directs a pleasant story that rumbles along at an ample pace, controlled well by both actors on stage. Window is book-ended by a muted, somewhat abrupt, opening and close – unexpected and unprepared. But the directorial choice here is sound – this is just another episode in the lives of this seemingly normal couple; it doesn’t require a fanfare or a poignant, explosive finale. Spencer focusses the energy outwards onto the audience right from the start – the window to the neighbours’ naked romping is placed as the fourth wall, which allows us to play the part of voyeur in the lives of those whom are themselves spying on others. It’s a relaxed atmosphere that permeates the room, as cosy and comforting as a bedroom should be.

The issue with Window is that Elisha sets up the predictable premise in the first few minutes – we are left wondering where this narrative can take us. It’s well observed in its detail, both writer and actors appreciating the beauty in the minute daily moments that add colour to life. But the script falls short somewhat when the initial fun of the observational thrill starts to fade. We witness Grace (Beau) emotionally distort herself, projecting her neuroses onto the woman she watches obsessively. They become the Ada and Van of her life, a Nabokov novel sculpted in flesh. It’s a gradual transition, but it never quite resolves and as such loses impact in the anti-climax.

Spencer draws some intriguing parallels between the couple’s contrasting personalities, examining the heightened emotional attachment that women vs. men traditionally make to unknown individuals. By projecting an initial perfection onto the unseen couple, Elisha emphasises the strife inherent in a more realistic life, the crack that appears when a fantasy world is discovered to be just that. At times, the script runs the danger of becoming too far-fetched, as Grace becomes so involved in the lives that she ignores the reality of her own. Beau conveys this with clever subtlety, unafraid to make herself vulnerable, pessimistic and at times quite irritating. Warner’s performance by contrast is solid but lacking variation – he needs some more emotional ebb and flow to his frustration that his wife is withdrawing from their lives in favour of an imaginary situation.

As in life, Window ends with an imperfect satisfaction – both couples move on with their lives and the events are chalked up to experience. There lacks a concrete resolution, the feeling that neither spouse learns any real lessons over the course of the production. Spencer seems to blur the atmosphere at the start and end of every scene slightly, as he does with the overall play. It has an identifiable realism to it, but makes for a slightly muted overall play.

Window