Review: The Window @ The Bristol Old Vic

Silva Semerciyan, writer-in-residence at the Bristol Old Vic, says that the inspiration for The Window grew out of a series of discussions with her colleagues, Charlotte Melia and Lee Lyford, about the failure of the ‘Big Society’. She pondered whether the Big Society was a fair ask, and whether or not it was vital to returning happiness to the lives of so many modern people.

“Certainly modern isolation had much to answer for:’, she says, “depression, anxiety, loneliness, despair. Connection to others and a sense of social responsibility seemed sorely lacking. But was it fair to set door to door altruism as a societal target?”

What ensued was the writing of a script that aimed to discuss this question within the folds of a comprehensible narrative. The Window is a 60-minute monologue in which the main character, played by Melia, delivers a narrative brimming with social pointedness, an effective and for the most-part highly engaging discourse on the effects of de-nucleated lifestyles.

With a powerful direct address to the audience she recounts the story of how she and her partner, Nath, begin renting a new house in Bristol and decide to put up a window in the kitchen. This window, however, proves to let the couple into the lives Ted and Sally, the aging couple next door. While at first their relationship appears healthy and normal, deterioration begins to occur after Sally dies, and Ted’s increasingly sallow loneliness, together with osteoarthritis and heart issues, start to cause both him and Melia serious problems.  Melia’s performance throughout this narrative varies on a hard line between a girl of dry, cynical wit and one of frenzied terror; effective, certainly, though the lack of a middle ground occasionally left the audience as frustrated as the character.

The crux of the play revolves around a series of conundrums, between social altruism or disengagement, between feminism and sexism and between hatred of sexual harassment and respect for the harasser. While Semerciyan certainly delivers a meaningful script, it ultimately feels as if she has attempted to do too much. As a result of allegorical meaning, the plot suffers in the final quarter and the end is unclear and dissatisfying. This, however, does not take away too much from what is otherwise a very well constructed social time-piece.

3 Stars

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