The TheatreguideLondon Review
Tricycle Theatre Spring 2012
Alan Ayckbourn's seventy-fifth play is not his funniest or most original, but B-level Ayckbourn is better than what most other writers can manage.
Feeling sometimes like an extended Little Britain sketch, Neighbourhood Watch introduces us to a pleasant middle-aged brother and sister who move into a new home and are quickly warned by their neighbours about the sink estate at the bottom of the hill.
Before you can blink, the newcomers are running a safety committee that erects a ten-foot fence, issues ID cards, builds a set of stocks on the village green and employs some local thugs to run a night patrol.
As a parable of the barely-covered paranoia and impulse toward fascism in middle England, Neighbourhood Watch is frequently amusing, occasionally chilling and almost never surprising.
There's a whiff of by-the-numbers to the committee's blithe progression toward total repression, and the attempts to deepen the characters – Ayckbourn's signature ability to make us laugh at his characters and then recognise their real unhappiness – seem almost perfunctory. A touch of religious fanaticism here, an unhappy marriage there, a bit of sexual confusion – all feel pasted-on, rather than integral to the central situation.
Still, there's some fun to be had along the way, particularly in watching these mild-mannered figures grow ever more extreme and bloodthirsty with absolutely no self-awareness. The playwright proves himself, as always, the ideal director of his own work, drawing excellent performances from all.
Review - Neighbourhood Watch - Tricycle Theatre 2012
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