Bellwether is a quiet, gated community, full of happy suburbanites; it is safe and nothing bad happens there. That is until six-year-old Amy Draft goes missing and the perfection quickly unravels at the seams.
Part of East 15’s director’s showcase at the Stockwell Playhouse, Kalyl Kadri tackles the challenge of bringing Steve Yockey’s onstage mystery/thriller to life, assisted by Klay Brackney Wandelear. There is a strong Stepford Wives feel as the show opens, introducing the audience to the neighbourhood of Bellwether; everyone is overwhelmingly pleasant, until we are taken inside the Draft household.
Alexandra Constantinidi and Ryan Ferrarin do an admirable job at portraying Jackie and Alan Draft: the newest couple to Bellwether, a move that is clearly a huge point of contention in their relationship. When their daughter disappears from the house while Jackie is downstairs drinking, the whole neighbourhood is quickly thrown into turmoil.
Overall, Bellwether is a complex script with a lot going on and the company do well to handle the complexity of the story. The first act is key for establishing the nature of the neighbourhood after such an unexpected event, but unfortunately, feels a bit over-lengthy.
The second act opens up a lot of possibilities and there is some amazingly designed puppetry from the hands of Laura Arroyo-Rocha and Sylvia Spyratou but the world we are presented with is disappointingly underexplored. The sound design by Carine Koleilat of Blue Fox Productions is a well-utilised extra feature of the world Kadri and Wandelear present.
I found myself wishing for more of the second act. After having the mystery built up, I yearned to be immersed within the answer to all the questions the play had asked.
Though the execution needs a little extra polish, the direction is strong. The days that follow Amy’s disappearance are broken up into clear, linear chunks of time, effectively separated using a mixture of lighting, sound effects and full use of the performance space. The audience are brought into the neighbourhood with characters delivering lines from throughout the auditorium.
At times, the show felt slightly under-rehearsed but despite this, there is a lot of potential within this production and a very clear artistic vision that comes through.
Bellwether is playing Stockwell Playhouse until July 20
Photo: Vinna Law