Neighbourhood Watch | Illuminate Educate

Neighbourhood Watch | Illuminate EducateCantankerous, vexatious, and stubborn, but who doesn’t love neighbours? The mawkish caricatures so common to television bear little resemblance to the genuine article. That might in part be because soap-operas serve to distract us from the disappointments of suburban existence and not to evoke it with any fidelity. At the very least soap-opera “neighbours” are greasy and untrustworthy replicas rehearsing ancient plots on potemkin stages. But I digress. The point is you can’t choose them. Neighbours, like family, are a crap shoot. Living in close proximity to total social and emotional strangers can feel a little like a suburban version of Russian roulette. In other words, there is plenty of downside.

Neighbourhood Watch is a play about the upside. It is a play about connection and friendship across time, distance, and experience which happens between two people on a suburban street. It speaks of the consolations of intimacy, the imperfect science of friendship, and our collective need for community. For this, writer Lally Katz has been much feted. I think too much.

Watching this play last night at the Bondi Pavilion I felt an overwhelming dissonance between the quality of the production and the writing itself. Neighbourhood Watch is a text the themes of which exceed its details. Good in general and bad in particular.

This is a good production. Gertraud Ingeborg excels as Ana, an octogenarian Hungarian widow who epitomizes the belligerent survivor of her generation. Anne Wilson is energetic as Catherine, even if her assurance and self-possession is somewhat at odds with her character. The pace is handled with practical efficiency by director Susanna Dowling, who gets the most out of all her actors in an admirably complete production. I was charmed by Isabella Andronos' clever and minimalistic set and elegant work on costume. But the play itself is chirruped with fatally corny melodrama. When the clutch of high-school age girls in front of me succumbed to the deliriums of hysteria I was actually relieved. There was no other response. It was an outburst of pure bathos: embarrassment not at the play, but for it. What else would these poor actors have to go through?

They say a craftsman never blames his tools, but he’s certainly entitled to blame his materials. If you like the play you’ll enjoy the production. Caveat Emptor.

Illuminate Educate presents
Neighbourhood Watch
by Lally Katz

Directed by Susanna Dowling

Venue: Bondi Pavilion Theatre | Bondi Pavilion 1 Queen Elizabeth Drive, Bondi Beach
Dates: 28 May – 6 June, 2015
Tickets: $22 – $35
Bookings: | 02 9365 0147

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