Amanda Liddle’s “Watching Windows” is currently running at the Surgeons’ Hall and I think that bitter/sweet, the company which has produced it, are from Brighton. The play invites us to witness events which are framed behind a single first-floor window frame, and in this it casts a shadow: the implicit sense of a presence which is watching unobserved, perhaps from their own window across the street. Occasionally amongst the private world of flats above street level, there are moments of such voyeurism, when your own life is suddenly lifted away and you can look in on an impromptu piece of theatre. “Watching Windows” is set over a period of fifty years and it possibly recounts the most dramatic incidents in a lifetime of neighbourly watching.
In 1964 a bride (Olivia Michel) climbs out of the window and stands on the ledge, exposed spectacularly in white like a medieval martyr. Twenty years later a piggish businessman in braces and his angel investor (Hector Andrews and Lukwesa Mwamba) have a thrilling power struggle at the same window. In 2014 some flatmates discover a cashbox hidden in a wardrobe and when they open it before the window, the result is a sudden, very spiteful argument. These three storylines give all the signs of being interconnected and if you are minded to trace out an overarching plot, there is probably one there.
The play allows itself to have some fun with the historical detail from each period, and the entire production budget has been no doubt blown on the yuppie’s antique 1984 mobile phone (the only phone which is guaranteed not to go off during the performance). Yet there is also something serious here too, a theme of troublesome women which endures in some murky form from the “disgraced” bride of the 60s to the supposedly badly-behaved girlfriend (Ella Wheelton) in 2014.
“Watching Windows” gives a misleading sense of being insubstantial, because there are twelve actors, with a character apiece, and only so much play to go around. In raising this complaint, however, I have possibly missed the whole point of the drama. You never get the full story when you witness an altercation in a window and this will teach us for not minding our own business.