In 1964, a young bride is discovered standing on a high window ledge at her own wedding reception. Twenty years later, a business deal is on the verge of collapse and thirty years after that, a group of students discover a mysterious box. One window conceals three secrets and young theatre company bitter/sweet invite us to peep through the blinds and watch.
None of the characters are more than stereotypical sketches that we have neither the time nor the desire to know anything more about.
This, as it turns out, is quite the literal invitation: the window is permanently present, a thin wooden barrier between audience and ensemble. Unfortunately the window itself is only integral to the first story, meaning that for the later scenarios, all it really adds to proceedings is a literal fourth wall. This physical separation seems unnecessary; a great many plays make intruders out of audience members without it. In the case of Watching Windows though, neither the writing nor the performances are quite good enough to create a feeling of truly uncomfortable voyeurism. This is a shame, as the concept of the show is interesting and the stories, which all concern family secrets and prestige, are intriguing. Each one has the potential to work as a more developed standalone piece.
Writer/director Amanda Liddle instead chooses to split the stories up and have us revisit them throughout the piece. Consequently, none of the characters are more than stereotypical sketches that we have neither the time nor the desire to know anything more about. The men are all chauvinists, the only difference between them being exactly when they decide to shout offensively in their female counterparts’ faces. The women are slightly more complex but still only really exist in two dimensions. We don’t get the chance to get to know them or their tantalising back-stories in any detail. Moreover, jumping around in time calls for multiple scene changes and, whilst these are competently handled by the cast, the standard ‘blackout, play some abstract sound, lights up’ routine quickly wears thin.
Bearing this in mind, the 12-strong cast should be cut some slack. Olivia Michel plays the troubled bride Alexandra with a focussed intensity that’s great to watch and Lukwesa Mwamba is similarly promising as a tough investor who demands that contracts be upheld. However, many appearances are all too brief and it’s easy to imagine just four or five actors easily telling the same stories with the same number of characters, showcasing more skill in the process. That this doesn’t happen is frustrating.
Watching Windows has a promising concept but ultimately it tries to do too much; bitter/sweet have potential but are denied the opportunity to shine. You can’t help but feel that it might have been best to keep this particular window shut.