“We can’t talk to shadows in the street”

12/08/2011 at 12:54 pm 2 comments

NEIGHBOURHOOD WATCH

presented by Company B Belvoir, August, 2011

When I was a small boy, back in the early 17th Century, I used to look at the strange people on the street as we went past in our carriage and wonder about the lives they lead, their fears, hopes and the many different stories they all had to tell. It’s a fascination I have always had with the city, and the strangeness that comes with being in such proximity of strangers. It’s an affliction I’m guessing is common to storytellers the world over, when they look at their local area, and think things like “where do all these people come from?” or “how many others are there in the world with dreams like mine?” But there’s that convention, that social nuance that prevents us reaching to find out about those who surround us, that business that keeps the mind’s eye focused inward, stuck on our own little world of problems, not so much on the manifold difficulties of the rest of the world.

And this is where things break down. Try as I might, I can’t help but see this production in the context of extraordinary events as have happened in London in recent days. Even though it’s ostensibly about street communities in a suburban city of Australia, it’s about so much more. How the personal is political, how we can carry so much weight of the world – together yet somehow alone. How this culture of picket-fenced segregation leads to whole communities alienated from each other and themselves. How this self-interest leads to the loss of wisdom between generations, which might seem some small thing but can become catastrophic.

Lally Katz has crafted a rare morality fable imbued with modern wit and fear; set around this unlikely friendship between an impressionable young woman Catherine and the indomitable, effusive, charismatic, irresistible Ana across the street. Within simple this framework are such leaps of imagination, magic, music and mystery that draw in its audience, stealthily as I have ever seen, teasing out the empathy with delight and genuine moments of horror or surprise throughout. You know it’s working when your feelings toward a character flare simply because they turned up. Or shift and flip at the behest of a single line – it’s an intoxicating brew of kindness and strangers.

I can say no more without making spoilers. The understated direction from Simon Stone allows the simplest detail of costume or voice to transport us anywhere – almost at the actor’s whimsy; which in harmony with Stefan Gregory’s gorgeous soundtrack and sound design has helped create a new entry to the modern canon. This play will go far. It’s Australian in context – but these are universal stories, set locally, but they could be the voices of any two women, across the street or across the world. It barely matters these days. Global, local, personal, political – everything is connected.

Neighbourhood Watch, By Lally Katz, directed by Simon Stone, featuring Charlie Garber, Megan Holloway, Kris McQuade, Ian Meadows, Heather Mitchell & Robyn Nevin. Playing at Belvoir St Theatre until August 28.

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Entry filed under: Inside Theatre REVIEWS, New Work, Sydney THEATRE. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , .

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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. James Waites  |  18/12/2011 at 8:13 am

    Here I am cruising through your posts! It’s been ages – I’ve looked at no one’s work for such a long time. I am glad you liked this play and its production. I did too. And was rather scowled upon by several who saw it’s ‘mainstreamness’ as a betrayal (or abandonment) of all that makes Lally Katz special. Special she was before Neighbourhood Watch – during – and after. I interviewed her recently for a job I was on and her mind is as florid, Gothic, passionate and savvy as ever. To the worriers, the Neighbourhood Watch experience has not ruined her! There will be more – and it will be Lally – no doubt in full flight!!

    Reply
  • 2. anvildrops  |  23/12/2011 at 12:35 pm

    “The Neighbourhood Watch Experience” ?? goodness I wonder what that entails?

    thanks as always for your comments James

    merry xbox
    SZ

    Reply

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