La Mama Theatre WindowsMore critical theatre goers interested in new perspectives brought by crisp writing might find the view afforded by this set of Windows quite unsatisfying.

Written by Ayse Bayramoglu, Windows has two competing panes. The first concerns the welfare of Esme (Anna Ellis), a poor girl regularly beaten by her widowed and crippled father. She’s friends with Huso (Zac Kazepis) a boy from a substantially more affluent family. The second concerns attempts to undermine the performance by narrator (Sandra Chui), the director (Lloyd Jones), and our two main characters, coupled with the sporadic noise of shell pasta being crushed underfoot.

Undermining viewer expectations can achieve both laughs and pointed comment, as the careers of comedic performers such as Garry McDonald and Shaun Micallef have shown. It helps to be snappy though, and the writing in Windows is not up to this. The narrator’s comments are obvious, banal, and lacking in subtlety or wit. Nothing of substance is gained from such interruptions, or by the occasional unpredictable actions of the performers to involve the audience.

This might not matter so much, except that the story of Esme and Huso is an unsatisfyingly lightweight treatment of a serious matter. More could be done to define the characters, such as by exploring why Esme remains in volatile Huso’s life, especially once she gains a job. Judicious cutting should make space to do this; currently Windows is a flabby (approximately) 100 minutes that proceeds at a funereal pace.

Some of the ideas are far better than the execution here. Rather than relate her hardships directly, Esme shares them with Huso through stories. However, the subterfuge isn’t successful; Esme’s first effort is so overt as to leave no doubt about what she’s had to do to survive. The completely unnecessary repetition with trivial variations in her subsequent fairytales added nothing whatsoever to our understanding, and was a major contributor to the play’s bloated nature.

Some of the accounts of what Esme or Huso could see when watching family events through windows (why each wasn’t watching their own family from inside remains a mystery) have the potential to become something meaningful. Unfortunately though, the play often seems a contrivance around a chosen motif.

Windows had a rehearsed reading in early 2016 and a short season in 2017. It is regrettable that the work could not direct this exposure towards polishing out its obvious deficiencies. The opening-night result was rather unenthusiastic applause, and a missed opportunity to encourage the audience to think more deeply about child welfare.

La Mama Theatre, 205 Faraday Street, Carlton
Performance: Thursday 8 March 2018 – 7:30pm
Season continues to 18 March 2018
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Image: courtesy of La Mama

Review: Jason Whyte