Neighbourhood Watch is Mr. Ayckbourn’s 75th play. He might have been wise to stop at number 74. He also directed, another suspect decision. Now don’t get me wrong. I do not mean to be nasty, just expressing my honest feelings.
Perhaps the subject matter and characters have more meaning across the pond. It did get rave reviews recently at the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough evidently staged for “in-the-round” and awkwardly restaged for “proscenium”
I am a great admirer of Mr. Ayckbourn’s THE NORMAN CONQUESTS. It had everything going for it. Unfortunately this latest opus goes on for far too long (2 and a half hours with intermission) with a cast of eight rather bizarre characters where most of the important action takes place off stage while the “Neighbourhood Watch Vigilante Committee” meets and meets and meets to take matters into their own hands when the police can not or are reluctant to control the out of hand violence that has been escalating in their gated community.
Martin Massie (Matthew Cottle) a calm pacifist of a person and his ultra Christian sister Hilda (Alexandra Mathie) of questionable decorating tastes have recently moved into their new home at The Bluebell Hill Development. They are unmarried and attached to one another with strong sibling bonds as we discover in the overlong opening monologue that has Hilda praising the passing of her younger brother at the opening ceremony of a Memorial Park named after him.
We then discover the twisted events that have led up to his demise when a window is broken and Martin chases away a would-be young thief. Misunderstanding after misunderstanding ensues until the denouement that includes a statue of Jesus, a broken Gnome and the cutting of the ribbon ceremony honoring the fallen Martin who was killed in the act of duty.
Participants include Rod Trusser (Terence Booth) ex-security man who is game to take on the world and retell a story about a stolen hedge trimmer that might find better use in trimming the play, Dorothy (Eileen Battye) in charge of gossip and PR, Luther (Phil Cheadle) an abusive husband to his young wife Magda (Amy Loughton) a teacher of the clarinet and oboe and The Janners – Gareth who loves medieval torture instruments and his much younger tart of a wife who sleeps around a lot Amy (Frances Grey) whose micro mini skirts barely reach her private parts that Martin all too easily succumbs to.
Not my cup of tea. Limited engagement thru January 1 – Theater A at 59E59
Photo: Karl Andre Photography
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