Fresh Look Theatre
Waterloo East Theatre
Two strangers enact a scene before us, in a park, with a picnic and an ominous piece of 'police line do not cross' tape flapping from the top of a public bin.
As the title of the play suggest there is more to this encounter that meets the eye and audiences are correct to be wary of both characters. Sarah Manners and Jon Shaw command the space and the small stage with fake grass and obligatory park bench sets the scene well but ensures that the focus is most definitely kept on their burgeoning relationship.
Described as a 'psychological drama in two acts' The Watcher unsurprisingly creates much tension and relies on ever changing friction and suspicion to drive the plot forward. This plot however, is something that would be cruel to reveal and therefore makes the play a difficult one to review! Needless to say the pace is extremely well handled and the pauses of both actors are as emotionally loaded and detailed as their speeches or conversations. The direction by Roger Martin is extremely fluid and there is not a corner of the stage unused. Proxemics also play a huge part in the production as a cat and mouse game is played between the characters as they constantly move, adapt and watch.
There are two options for audiences here, to sit back and follow the twists and turns or to act as amateur psychologists and also become watchers. There are a few clues in the text but more importantly in the power struggles between the characters and the sexual politics at play. Both Manners and Shaw are at ease in the roles and seem to relish their characters' struggles for dominance.
Whilst the end of the play holds a twist that even for a thriller is a brave and unexpected step, the ever changing nature of this piece keeps the levels of intrigue high and, although the characters do not mean everything they say, the opening scene includes many pertinent philosophical points. Unsettling and purposefully partially unresolved, The Watcher does not provide a wholly satisfying conclusion - but why should it? Life is complicated and theatrical interactions even more so.
Running until 23rd April
Reviewer: Amy Yorston