Next Door

Tue 23rd – Sat 27th February 2016

reviews

Maddy Searle

at 23:44 on 23rd Feb 2016

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Next Door is a loving meditation on life’s everyday moments. The audience is given brief glimpses into the lives of a range of characters, some of them eerily familiar, every one of them sensitively portrayed. Set in the same kitchen, each scene blends seamlessly into the next as characters come and go, making cups of tea or microwaving ready meals. Each actor plays multiple roles, but without resorting to exaggerated accents or hammy mannerisms. The subtle changes to voice, tone and expression are more than enough to convey their different personalities. Mothers, sons, daughters, brothers, lovers are revealed one by one, along with their insecurities, passions and relationships.

The first sound the audience hears is the bastion of middle-class Britain, Radio 4, setting the tone for the rest of the play – quotidian and instantly recognisable. Onstage, the set is a naturalistic kitchen setup, overflowing with props. I was initially distracted by the vast array of foods, crockery and appliances littering the set, but as the play progressed they became part of the stories being told, and added to, rather than detracted from, the actors’ performances. Other props which played significant roles were the laptops, phones and tablets which were periodically brought onstage by different characters. A moment of brilliance involved a Skype conversation between a husband and wife, where the signal was lost and the picture frozen two or three times, something every student calling home can relate to.

The cast, while being adept at quick-fire conversations and awkward exchanges, were equally able to leave silences when needed. Some were poignant, whereas others were very amusing. One scene consisted of a man and a woman absorbed in their own activities, neither speaking a word. This comfortable silence was so familiar and homely, the audience were grinning from start to end. The cast also managed to balance lighthearted squabbles and loving embraces with the many conflicts of family life. No one character was a villain, each had their own motivations which were equally apparent and understandable.

This production is a delight, both intimate and universal, giving new insight into the seemingly mundane conversations we all have every day. From the first ping of the boiled kettle, you will be hooked.

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