Absorbing theatre proves a treat

Alnwick Theatre Club'Neighbourhood Watch
Alnwick Theatre Club'Neighbourhood Watch

REVIEW: Alnwick Theatre Club performed Neighbourhood Watch at Alnwick Playhouse on Tuesday, April 22.

Alnwick Theatre Club gave an absorbing opening night performance of Alan Ayckbourn’s Neighbourhood Watch.

This challenging piece of drama is a thought-provoking social commentary exploring the theme of a broken society and the dangers of leaving law and order to volunteer vigilantes.

If the club’s most recent productions of Sleeping Beauty and The 39 And A Half Steps were light-hearted affairs, then Neighbourhood Watch was very much the more serious relation.

The show is the theatre club’s fifth outing with esteemed playwright Ayckbourn, having previously staged Bedroom Farce, Relatively Speaking, Absent Friends and Sisterly Feelings.

Clearly they are fans of his work. And after seeing Neighbourhood Watch, it is easy to see why.

The show is a fascinating portrait on modern-day society. But while it is a fairly deep piece, Ayckbourn’s script is entertaining, with moments of light relief in the form of some very funny gags and black comedy.

The show tells the story of how a well-intentioned neighbourhood watch scheme, coupled with an innocent mistake, leads to an alarming escalation of events as the residents take extreme measures to protect themselves.

It is a cautionary tale offering a wonderful insight into human nature. And the talented cast rose to the challenge of Ayckbourn’s work – his 75th play in fact.

Oliver Pusey and Lisa Gladstone played Martin and Hilda Massie respectively and both coped very well in the lead roles. Tony Neale raised many laughs with his portrayal of Rod Trusser while Matt Bush gave an accomplished performance of the angry and aggressive Luther Bradley.

Wendy Richardson was deliciously flirtacious as Amy Janner while Maggie Wallace performed well on her debut.

Susan Joyce gave a superb busy-body feel to her character, Dorothy Doggett, while Peter Biggers gave a fragility and vulnerability to Gareth Janner.

The cast executed the play’s comic moments well and the audience duly responded with laughter.

Neighbourhood Watch is very conversational – especially in the first half – providing a fly-on-the-wall feel to life behind closed doors in modern-day suburbia.

It did mean that the cast had large chunks of script to remember and at times – albeit not very often – some members seemed to struggle, sometimes cutting in front of one another and at one time needing prompting.

But it was the first night, so execution issues will no doubt tighten up as the four-show run continues.

The play is performed on a static set – the Massie’s frontroom. Director David Richardson – taking on his first play for the club – utilized the stage well, while clever use of off-stage lighting and sound made the set feel larger than it was.

The club is performing Neighbourhood Watch at the Playhouse tonight and tomorrow at 7.30pm.

Tickets are £10 standard, £9 conc and £6 child/student. Visit the website or call 01665 510785.