With its powerful, enchanting cast, cohesive design and diverse, contemporary plot, Neighbourhood Watch is one of the State Theatre Company’s best productions in a long time.
Neighbourhood Watch follows the story of naïve aspiring actor Catherine (Eleanor Stankiewicz) and her friendship with her elderly neighbour, the headstrong refugee Ana (Miriam Margolyes). The characters are well-developed, and the plot is simple, thoughtful and effortlessly mixes the realistic and the symbolic to create a bold and engaging piece of theatre. Director, Julian Meyrick, has struck an excellent balance between comedy and drama to create a show where everything seems to run smoothly.
[pull_left]Even for those who do not usually enjoy theatre Neighbourhood Watch is a production not to be missed[/pull_left]
In a small-but-strong cast, Carmel Johnson and Eugenia Fragos and particularly Miriam Margolyes stand out. Each woman creates a character who is stereotypical without being one-dimensional; a character who seems like someone you would meet on the street and then use as an anecdote at your next dinner party. Stankiewicz slips easily into her naïve, sweet character and wins the audience over with an easy innocence, although occasionally her speech crosses the border between projection and yelling. Despite the occasional departure from the hard-to-master Eastern European accent into something that sounded vaguely Irish, the cast as a whole seem meticulously rehearsed and consistently in-character.
Although the white, angular set stays within the State Theatre Company’s usual, minimalist style, its easy malleability and ability to transform seamlessly from an Australian, suburban street to an abandoned warehouse outside of Budapest shows a new level of set proficiency for the company. Considering the frequent set changes required by the script, one might expect scene changes to be lengthy and problematic, but each change happens quickly and without incident, accompanied by a simple, quaint soundtrack composed by Quentin Grant.
The costumes are somewhat hit-and-miss; while Margolyes’ costume seems like exactly something the war-torn widow Ana would wear, the younger characters are dressed in costumes that are either too contemporary or too old-fashioned for suburbia in 2007.
Even for those who do not usually enjoy theatre, or do not enjoy the traditional plays often presented by the State Theatre Company, Neighbourhood Watch is a production not to be missed. Between the modern, almost-sarcastic humour, streamlined production and design elements, and unpretentious, truly loveable characters, you forget you’re watching a play altogether.