VOYEURISM is a feature of modern society. It has been fuelled by the growth of social media, 24 hour news, our appetite for celebrity gossip and the nation’s voracious consumption of easily available soft pornography.
But for some voyeurism is a train journey from fun to obsession with unfortunate consequences, a theme expertly captured by Window, the latest offering from award winning writer Ron Elisha (The Soul of Wittgenstein).
Showing at The Bread and Roses Theatre in London’s Clapham, it centres on the relationship between young couple Grace (Idgie Beau) and Jimmy (Charles Warner) who have a child Carmen (a character we never see).
The two have a laboratory’s worth of sexual chemistry between them – despite the demands of Carmen – but it is taken to a new level by the sexual shenanigans going in a neighbour’s bedroom that they are able to observe from their bedroom window.
‘We’re getting off on them,’ quips Grace as she sits astride Jimmy on their matrimonial bed. ‘Where do they get the energy?’ asks Jimmy.
‘I’d kill for an arse like that,’ says Grace before looking at Jimmy and stating: ‘Do you still find me attractive compared to that?’
It is the first indication that the little bit of spice that this act of voyeurism has added to their sexual relationship could be red hot chilli. They soon move their bed so that they can sit in it and watch live red hot sex without having to rick a neck.
Through a series of sets where only their clothes and the background music changes, we then witness Grace and Jimmy’s relationship fracture as Grace (a journalist) becomes obsessed with her observations from the window. She gives the woman a name (Ada), watches acts of spirited sex and infidelity, despairs when Ada cries and shares her joy when she falls pregnant (a fate that also befalls her). Binoculars are used to ensure nothing is missed. Peeping Grace.
But her focus on the neighbours exacts a high personal price, poisoning her work, causing Jimmy to question her love of Carmen and endangering her own sanity. Are some of the conclusions she draws from her Peeping Tom activities based more on a vivid imagination than fact? We are left to draw our own conclusions.
Window is an enjoyable 80 minute take on modern life. It inevitably draws fewer laughs as Grace’s mental state deteriorates but it raises a number of serious issues about the world we live in. Our addiction to social media and our obsession with what others do – often at a personal cost to ourselves.
Idgie Beau is quite brilliant as Grace (she reminds me of a younger version of Caroline Quentin), perfectly portraying her character’s transmogrification from fun loving (and sex obsessed) to a voyeur extraordinaire who is infused with self-doubt. Charles Warner, good looking and all legs, cleverly captures Jimmy’s increasing frustrations with his wife as she treads on a tightrope between reality and fantasy.
Window is expertly directed by Dave Spencer who uses The Bread and Roses’ cramped space to good effect. It is a play of our time and for our time. A 2017 take (and a low budget one at that) on Alfred Hitchcock’s 1954 Rear Window although of course not in the same league.
Window runs until September 16. Although the theatre, situated above a pub, is a little off the beaten track (and with just 40 seats somewhat cosy), the play is worth a gander to see life through Grace’s looking glass.
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Director and producer: Dave Spencer
Playwright: Ron Elisha
Grace: Idgie Beau
Jimmy: Charles Warner