The Barrier, written by Sally Llewellyn and now running at Park Theatre, promised so much – and yet there is far too little dramatic tension, writes Fiona Leckerman.
We watch Shalev, the Hasidic Jew (played by Toby Liszt), objecting to his non-Jewish neighbour’s outside light, which he inadvertently switches on as he walks past.
A disagreement of sorts ensues, with Cass (Antonia Davies) and Sam (Jack Pierce), the middle class and perhaps implausibly out of place couple disgruntled and bemused by the “bonkers, ultra orthodox, extremists” that live next door. They don’t seek to understand any more than Lwelleyn seeks to question it.
Shalev gives no explanation of the law that forbids turning on a light on the Sabbath, except for the repeated line “It’s my religion.” A line the neighbours ultimately mock. And the mocking weaves its way silently through The Barrier, which is directed by Kirrie Wratten, often disguised as humour.
Brief relief is found in the handyman Nikos (Luke Harrison) and to cover all bases there is a drunken Neo-Nazi thrown in for good measure, but the characters are stereotypical and dull.
It’s unclear whether Lwelleyn plucked this scenario in order to act out an argument or whether she intended to shed light on the differences of religion and culture living side by side. It feels amateurish despite the actors’ best efforts and unimaginative in its use of space – which overall is a shame, because it has the potential to be a thought-provoking piece.
The Barrier runs at Park Theatre until 20 October. Details: www.parktheatre.co.uk