Neighbourhood Watched

NEIGHBOURHOOD Watch, Alan Ayckbourn’s new play currently on stage at the Stephen Joseph Theatre in Scarborough, entertains, enthrals and surprises...

This is what the prolific playwright hopes for, in his introduction in the programme.

He also expects that ‘some damn fool critic writes a review giving away the entire plot’.

So I won’t do that. Although the beginning of the play actually gives away the ending, how that ending is reached is certainly a surprise.

Over the course of four months, The Bluebell Development, Martin and Hilda’s new home, becomes a small country battling against the world in the form of the ‘estate at the bottom of the road’.

Being England and Ayckbourn, class is of course never far from our minds.

Wonderfully blurred, we discover working class children having music lessons, middle class men accused of violence and the ‘outlaw’ Wrigley brothers in demand by everyone.

The police, the media and religion are all targets ridiculed by ‘Neighbourhood Watch’. Reasons for people’s behaviour are explored and hypocrisy is often lurking. The treatment of children and the suppression of sexual feelings are questioned.

And all this in the context of a comedy. A dark, satirical comedy, admittedly, but with frequent moments for laughter.

And language is used so satisfyingly. Have you ever thought about all the beautiful words that begin with ‘m’ and the negative ones with ‘a’?

I wonder if the names of the characters are also significant – Martin, Luther, Magda, Hilda, with their Christian associations; Rod and Dudgeon, alluding to the preoccupations with medieval punishments; and Amy, the ‘love interest’... Could Gareth and Dorothy be the ‘innocents abroad’?

Alan Ayckbourn expressed, in a recent radio programme, his determination that things have to happen in theatre (‘what is it going to look like?’) as well as include interesting ideas. So, audiences can speculate as I have done, but this is certain: a dramatic plot will unfold here.

I’d just like to mention a few of my favourite quotes from this play: “artists...down goes the neighbourhood”; “drink, drugs and pigeon food”; “who reads The Mail?” and “tea first, then war”.

Tickets, for this last week of the show (touring after October 15, eventually to New York), are available from the box office on (01723) 370541.