Dangerous Lenses  – The Vault Festival, London

Writer: Brooke Robinson

Director:  Melissa Dunne

Reviewer:  Richard Maguire

This one-woman show about modern-day isolation begins with more than a nod to Hitchcock’s Rear Window. Looking out of her window, Ann sees and hears her neighbours, all of who seem similarly lonely. But in the middle of the night a new neighbour appears, and thus begins Ann’s obsession.

He’s brought his child with him, a girl in a pink coat. Father and daughter seem very different from the other neighbours. Mrs Credit Card stays up all night, addicted to the shopping channels while downstairs throws parties every weekend. Ann calls the woman who lives above her Miss Agoraphobic, her limp registering as ‘click, click, drag’ on the floorboards.

Ann says she works in a chocolate factory – but, increasingly, we begin to question her every word – and one day decides to welcome her new neighbour with a bag of chocolate shards that didn’t make the grade. ‘For your daughter,’ she says when the man opens the door, and she is shocked to hear that there is no daughter and that he lives there alone.

Back in her own flat, Ann presses her face against her window, and there indeed is the girl, still in her pink coat sat quietly in the neighbour’s flat. The influence of Rear Window is now joined by Don’t Look Now, Daphne du Maurier’s tale of a bereaved couple haunted by a child in a red coat in Venice. Can Ann trust what she is seeing or could it be that her eyes are playing tricks on her, as lately her eyes haven’t felt quite right? They weep and they are sore.

Dangerous Lenses is written by the Australian Brooke Robinson, and for as long as the play remains paranoid there is much to enjoy in the writing. However, when Ann takes action, the writing slips into more familiar territory, and earlier tragedies bubble to the surface taking prominence over the more interesting issues of how we cope caged up in cities.

But if the story loses its tension, Grace Chilton, as Ann, is consistently powerful, and on Friday night, even dealt with a fire alarm, and a temporary evacuation, during which she remained completely in character. We want to like Ann, but Chilton cleverly distances us with very little fuss, and only the slightest ripple of mania appears on her face. It’s a consummate performance and just about makes up for the improbable turns of Robinson’s script.

This is the perfect play to showcase an actor’s talents, but the script could do with some polishing, and could, in places, be even more opaque in an effort to sustain the tension of the first twenty minutes. Perhaps too much happens here, but Chilton makes it worthwhile with her unsettling performance.

Reviewed on 25 January 2019 | Image: Contributed

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The Reviews Hub London is under the acting editorship of Richard Maguire. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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