Sunday, December 03, 2006

the people next door &c

last evening i went to watch a play at the O´Reilly Theatre here at my College (Keble). I´ve never been a big theatre buff. When in SA it always seemed like such a schlepp getting to the theatre - small productions in intimate little theatres aren´t the norm (well, especially not in Cape Town). So, on the one hand one´s options felt limited, and on the other the tickets were expensive, and it somehow invariably felt that you went to the theatre not because you had an overt interest in the dramatic arts, but mostly because going to the theatre was what the hip, educated set would do. In sum, you went "to be seen". Yawn. Well, this isn´t always so, but it was so often enough. And apologies to my theatre-loving and theatre-going friends in SA who might not agree with my assessment.

So, last night I went to watch "The People Next Door". It was a small play, and very very good, in the sense that the actors (all four of them) had a good command of their characters. They were convincing. The lead character was a fellow called "Nigel", and how interesting to see how thoroughly ensconced the actor was in being Nigel. So much so that, in one particular scene, where "Phil" intimidates "Nigel", who then goes into a nervous-fit-slash-temper-tantrum-slash-meltdown, you could see that the actor playing "Phil" seemed slightly astounded, and bemused, by "Nigel´s" antics, as if he´d not seen this - the force with which "Nigel" reacted - coming.
What makes for a serious topic, and something difficult to address (since we are still so "in the thick of things" and somehow we forget how to laugh at ourselves), was handled very well. The story has a good denouement (I won´t give the game away, of course!). Below, some additional info:

Name: The People Next Door
Tagline: A brilliant, shifting panorama of contemporary British life.
Host: The People Next Door - 8th Week O'Reilly
Type: Music/Arts - Performance
Time and Place

Start Time: Tuesday, November 28, 2006 at 7:30pm
End Time: Saturday, December 2, 2006 at 7:30pm
Venue: Keble O'Reilly Theatre
Contact Info Phone: 01865305305

Set in a council-flat staircase in a big English city, it charts what happens to the more-or-less friendly relations among the residents – confused half-Asian Nigel with his history of mental health problems, unhappy 15-year-old kid Marco and feisty Scottish granny Mrs Mac – when their peace is invaded by a psychopathic plain-clothes cop called Phil, determined to get results in the war on terrorism. In next to no time, fragile Nigel is down at the local mosque under instructions to spy on the Muslim community, and discovering there’s more to the Koran than meets the eye; Marco is worried that Nigel’s new faith will turn him into a fundamentalist; and Mrs Mac is prowling the stairs with a poker, under the impression, cultivated by Phil, that Nigel is using his sheltered flat as a bomb-factory.

And the result is a brilliant, shifting panorama of contemporary British life, in which terrific one-liners zip around the stage like unintentional fireworks unleashed by the pressure of the situation, and each character’s psyche becomes a comic battleground between Phil’s rampant Daily Mail world-view on one hand, and – on the other – a dose of practical common sense, oddly boosted by the emergent liberal folk-wisdom of Britain’s soap-and-chat-show daytime television culture.

Nigel - David Bernard Snower

Phil - Tim Hoare

Marco - Athel Hodge

Mrs. Mac - Amy Porteous

Director - Corinne Sawers

Assistant Director - Alev Scott

Producer - Isabel Ridley


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