In My Neighbours are Kind of Weird? Livvie (Sophie Graham) is a self-described ‘micro-celebrity’ living rent-free in a family flat in Shoreditch with her archetypal self-obsessed, wellness-obsessed millennial fiancé, Eddie. As Livvie gropes for the clarity and satisfaction that seems to be coming easily to her peers, the strange antics of her upstairs neighbours bring trouble to her already-imperilled equilibrium. Things become stranger still when a dinner party with the offending neighbours, Kevin and Amahzing, devolves into chaos, causing Livvie to suspect that the mischievous, enigmatic couple living above her may, in fact, be Greek gods. Amid the obsessive attentions of the charismatic – possibly immortal – Kevin, portrayed brilliantly by the commanding James Stevens, Livvie’s long-repressed feelings of guilt and fragmented identity begin to manifest in anarchic, dangerous ways.
It’s a clever, witty play which takes aim at millennial culture, denouncing its disciples as hypocritical, narcissistic and deeply unserious. While this is well-trodden ground, Panda La Terrière’s script uncovers fresh veins of insight, delivering penetrating jabs that strike deep and true. Likewise, production designer Eliza Podesta’s set deserves praise for its strikingly recognisable rendering of Livvie’s millennial Shoreditch flat; the line art paintings and chunky floral prints are sure to feel acutely familiar to anyone who has ever set foot in the home of an East London young professional.
The play’s strange descent into the fantastical is filled with entertaining moments. The dinner party scene is a particular highlight, with the chaotic energy of the neighbours asserting itself more and more deeply as the scene progresses. But the play often loses sight of its thesis amid all the farcical fun of its absurd premise. The clarity of purpose necessary for effective satire becomes diminished as the narrative proceeds; new plot threads and revelations complicate the throughline of what exactly the play is trying to say. Why is Livvie enticed by the Greek gods? How do their lifestyles counterpoint the millennial culture which is breeding such dissatisfaction? Such questions might be answered were the play not spinning so many plates at once.
The writing and performances demonstrate more than enough talent to effectively deliver on any one generic form, if they could only decide on what that form should be; oscillating between poignant satire, absurd farce, sincere drama and epic myth, the promise of satisfaction in any one of these modes is left unfulfilled.
Such narrative frustration might be felt more deeply were it not for the stellar performance of Graham as Livvie. She plays the central role with a pathos that consistently grounds the show; expressive and endearing, she proves eminently watchable and smooths out many bothersome narrative bumps. The play’s ambitions may not fully cohere into a satisfied whole, but a sharp script, comically adept cast and consistent sense of fun ensure a charming viewing experience, and one that is kind of weird.
Written by: Panda La Terrière
Directed by: Sophie Graham & Panda La Terrière
Produced by: Sophie Graham, Panda La Terrière & Eliza Podesta
My Neighbours are Kind of Weird? plays at Drayton Arms Theatre until 15 March. Further information and bookings can be found here.