Leslie Judd reviews Neighbourhood Watch

Neighbourhood Watch
by Alan Ayckbourn
performed by Waterbeach Theatre Company
directed by Chris Shinn

I had seen this Alan Ayckbourn play some time ago, and to be honest I could remember little about it, I certainly didn't remember Hilda's monologue at the beginning of the play.

It can be quite daunting being in a spotlight delivering a monologue with no one else there to support you if anything goes wrong, Marcelle Olivier as Hilda didn't appear to put a foot wrong.

This is a play firmly set around the riots of 2011 and bringing to the audience the frustration and the fear of 'normal' folk on a 'normal' housing development alongside a 'sink' estate. As such the characters have to be seen in the light of these events, although a present-day audience may or may not recognise the relevance, however it's not really a play for children, a couple of which in the audience were really not interested but may have enjoyed the final reveal set in the present rather than the story of the play which takes place 4 months earlier.

This was a play that needed the actors to bring the characters to life, being a play that in theory could be anywhere in The United Kingdom today. As previously stated, Marcelle played a very convincing Hilda, supporting her brother but also being a dominant character being committed as a driving force in the Neighbourhood watch team. She held the attention of the audience throughout showing a good range of emotions and maintaining the religious fervour that is Hilda's driving force, also the realisation that she was losing her brother to Amy. She was matched with Nick Gulvin as Martin Massie who displayed a slight nervousness on stage, never quite appearing totally comfortable on stage. I felt he never quite knew what to do with his hands. He didn't display the playfulness that Alan Ayckbourn felt the character should initially show. I felt that there needed a greater variety of pitch to his voice.

Michael Husband's portrayal of Rod the ex-army was a believable portrayal, great diction and movement on stage making him a believable character, helped by the changes of costume as the play progressed. An interesting performance by Vicki Hingley as Dorothy the 'village' gossip, so to speak. We thought she was not at ease on stage initially but developed into her character and became more relaxed and gave a good performance as the play progressed, indeed as they both had some good comic lines this helped with their performances.

An actor who stood out with the variety of tone and expression, with good displays of anger and aggression was Steve Kennett as Luther. The only character who was not so prepared to go along with Martin he gave a good performance, also believable as a man who bullied his wife Magda performed by Olive Sparrow. A good performance as a cowed wife she delivered a poignant monologue very well. Not such 'comic' characters their appeal had to come from their voices and performances.

The final 'pairing' were Chas Barclay as Gareth and Jade Bushell as Amy, these two characters were a bit like chalk and cheese. Chas came across as the mousy character who revelled in his increasingly sadistic instruments of retribution not only with the miscreants but the humiliations of his comely wife/partner. Jade gave a good bouncy interpretation as Amy who was forever showing her way as the scarlet woman in the show. This was a great part well portrayed with some well executed comic lines. These performances took place on an excellently designed and painted box set. It's some time since I've seen a box set and a good one at that, even down to the green wallpaper and paint. There was a well-dressed stage and suitable lighting and sound effects, just one lighting cue gone wrong. Sound was good throughout, sight lines were always good and movement and setting on this large stage were good, props and costumes were good and of course who could forget the amazing gold gnome at the final unveiling.

A good production of what at times had a very topical subject matter written thirteen years ago. Well done all.

Leslie Judd
Regional Representative NODA East
District 4N

Waterbeach Theatre Company
All performances at
Waterbeach School
Cambridge CB25 9JU

Phone: 01223 880023
Email: secretarywtc@icloud.com

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