Peepshow

Mon 15th – Sat 27th August 2011

reviews

Rhiannon Kelly

at 13:59 on 17th Aug 2011

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Written by Isabel Wright in collaboration with Frantic Assembly in 2001, ‘Peepshow’ explores the intertwining lives of seven characters living in a tower block. We get a glimpse into the urban lives of two couples, friends and one lonely man as the pressures of communication bring their relationships to breaking point. ‘Allthepigs’ do an admirable job at tackling this contemporary play, but the production is ultimately lacking in energy and depth.

The aim of Peepshow is to turn the audience into voyeurs, as we are meant to feel like we are intruding on these individual lives. The large, square venue didn’t do the production any favours, and while the scattered set of various living spaces was visually interesting; the actors strode around the stage with no awareness of where their rooms began and ended. When each scene was taking place, it was not clear whether the characters were meant to freeze or keep moving, which became distracting as some couples carried on their action while other rooms were in a completely still frame. We never had a stable sense of space, which meant that the claustrophobia at the heart of ‘Peepshow’ was never felt, which is integral to dramatic progression and the overall tension of the piece.

The characters are complex, with a multitude of hidden desires and frustrations. The relationship between drunken George (Orla Jackson) and her weary partner Ben (Iddon Jones) is initially comical; Orla brings out the humour in her drunken rants, and as their relationship is pushed to breaking point, her emotional fragility is depicted sensitively. The most interesting character was surprisingly the loner, Richard (played by Russell Woodhead); he was both amusing and likeable as his only love appears to be the Lithuanian lady on his language tape.

Despite having a good rapport with each other, the couples all lacked individuality and depth. I never sympathised with any of them so that the heart-breaking climax (or lack of) was neither poignant nor moving. While the play is meant to show an insight into the banality of everyday life, this production was not insightful, and I grew weary of watching the predictable events unfold.

I never felt like the cast completely committed. They are all competent actors, but the whole thing needed more energy to keep it going. I did enjoy watching the pressures and pitfalls of the characters, and the company clearly have good ideas and inspirations, but there is so much depth in ‘Peepshow’ that just wasn’t explored. I expected more from a bunch of drama school graduates.

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Leonie James

at 18:16 on 17th Aug 2011

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Peepshow gives us a glimpse into the lives of residents in a block of flats. Two couples, a pair of friends, and a man who lives alone. Their separate apartments are represented by furniture in different corners of the stage; the central bed is used by all couples. All actors stay alive throughout : reading, looking through photographs or watching TV to pass the time until their next lines. This was an effective device, and gave life to the piece. The actors themselves shone when not in the spotlight, and all kept in character perfectly.

The focus moved between apartments, so each came to life for a scene, then fell silent as another pair came into the spotlight. The one issue with this technique was that at times it felt disjointed

when we picked up again with one pair. This did only happen at times, however, and on the whole, was a wise choice. We gained glimpses into these characters’ lives, and were privy to their relationships without permission. This was echoed in the play itself, as shouting from one flat was heard downstairs. The car alarm heard by all characters was a nice touch which added realism to the

idea of the apartment block.

There were discrepancies in the strength of the storylines. The Kate and Sarah storyline was a cliché, and felt weak in comparison to the others. The couples’ storylines, though saying nothing new, were

played beautifully and we watched two relationships falling apart with sympathy. One element of the story I really disliked, was the revelation (to the audience only) of an affair. The scene came out

of the blue, and was not properly discussed further in the play itself. It was an unnecessary scene.

Particular credit must go to Russell Woodhead, as Richard, a man living alone whilst his partner is away travelling. His performance was heart-wrenching to watch. His loneliness and desperation

were evident but not overdone. He was a pathetic figure, but one I found I kept watching even when other scenes were going on.

Peepshow is a show worth seeing. It is not stunning, but it is an enjoyable experience. The initial premise is interesting, and staged creatively. The characters are compelling and the actors praiseworthy. Some elements of the play don’t quite work, or could have been played better. In general, though, this play works really rather well.

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