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Keep Watching review at New Diorama, London – ‘ambitious, if unfocused, exploration of surveillance’

George Evans, Beatrice Scirocchi and Luyanda Unati Lewis-Nyawo in Keep Watching at New Diorama, London. Photo: Tristram Kenton
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Exploring the tensions between privacy, loneliness and the all-pervasive reach of technology, Keep Watching is a stylish, slow-burning and low-key thriller.

The story focuses on exhausted, isolated A&E nurse Kat – played with frazzled intensity by Beatrice Scirocchi – as she comes under the scrutiny of CCTV operative Jo. Luyanda Unati Lewis-Nyawo gives this professional observer a distinct presence, watching Kat from the sidelines as their relationship goes from protective to oppressive. Occasionally, she breaks into bursts of Billie Holiday’s All of Me, giving the vocals a distinctly unsettling edge.

Beside them, George Evans fills in smaller roles between expositional stints as Kat’s brother Zak, too caught up in the spiral of his own life to offer any support.

Jesse Fox’s script has a smart premise and ultimately works towards a satisfying twist. But in trying to capture the stultifying experience of life in a digital age, the text often feels like a jumble of underexplored ideas – from Alzheimer’s, to terrorism, to the state of the NHS.

Director Simon Lyshon lifts proceedings with a slick presentation, mixing snappy naturalistic scenes with evocative visuals. At one point, some superb shadow-play involving a wire cage creates a rotating silhouette of a tower block.

Bethany Gupwell’s subtle, shifting lighting design is deployed with precision, delineating creeping zones of warmth, shadow and glare. These intersect seamlessly with the sterile grid of Sarah Beaton’s strikingly austere stage, closing around the characters as they circle and snipe at each other, too connected to ever really communicate.

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Verdict
Ambitious if unfocused exploration of our contemporary culture of surveillance
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