That’s a secret private world you’re looking into out there. People do a lot of things in private they couldn’t possibly explain in public.
Rear Window (1953)
Ok, hands up who watched Love Island? No? Me neither, but for many people this year, the summer was spent not soaking up the sunshine but watching attractive people pairing off in an exotic location, with speculation about their sex lives. I’ve certainly been guilty of watching Big Brother in the early years and since then, the rise of reality TV has run parallel with the use of social media, each feeding the appetite for the other. So what’s this Truman Show-esque fascination with other people’s lives..?
Written by Ron Elisha and directed by Dave Spencer, Window focuses on married couple Grace (Idgie Beau) and Jimmy (Charles Warner) who live in a flat with their baby daughter Carmen. One evening, they are agog at the ‘athletic display’ they can see outside their bedroom window, performed by a younger couple in the flat opposite. Initially observing the younger couple’s ‘prowess’ and ‘ridiculously good looks’, Grace takes a keen interest in their relationship and starts to identify herself with woman she’s christened ‘Ada’. Over the next five years, the time spent watching the couple has an impact on Grace’s relationship with Jimmy, Carmen and her job, which leads to more time spent at home and perpetuating her ‘immersion’ into the lives across the street…
Asides from the aforementioned paralells to social media addiction, Window raises some uncomfortable points about the recognition of pre- and post-natal depression – not only about how to be supportive in such circumstances, but about being open to professional psychiatric counselling. Little by little, Window conveys over time the frustration of not being able to comfort one’s partner when they constantly assume the worst case scenario. In the case of the younger couple in the play, they are ‘shadows’ of Grace and Jimmy – similar to them, but the details of their lives mere projections of Grace’s fears and imagination.
While the latter half of the play certainly covers some weighty issues, Window’s initial humour and bedroom antics gently dovetails into the play’s more serious themes. The ‘little’ moments such as Jimmy ‘slithering’ out of bed when it’s his turn to attend to his crying daughter are well-observed and guaranteed to raise a smile, while Grace and Jimmy’s reactions to the ‘sex marathon’ they’re observing are a reminder how facial expressions and body language can convey so much.
Asides from the ‘Rear Window ethics’ (or lack of…) in the play, the distinction between Jimmy and Grace’s reactions to sex on display could be interpreted in the broadest sense as the differences between men and women. Jimmy’s really ‘turned on’ by the other couple – to the point that he turns the bed so it faces the window head-on – and wants to have sex immediately afterwards. For Grace, she’s perturbed at the beginning by the sight of others having sex, but once she begins to identify with ‘Ada’ the spectacle becomes an act of ‘lovemaking’. Sex as an end in itself, sex as a means to demonstrate devotion and what can’t be expressed with words. Will men and women ever see eye-to-eye on this most intimate of activities?
© Michael Davis 2017
Window runs at the Bread & Roses Theatre until 16th September.