Theatre Review: Neighbourhood Watch
21st February 2012
Lucy Tyler reviews Alan Ayckbourn’s Neighbourhood Watch: a laugh-out-loud satire of a security-obsessed Britain, which will have special resonance for those theatre-goers young enough to remember when they were mistaken for Britain’s ‘feral youth’.
When it comes to choosing the resources most useful to playwrights, Alan Ayckbourn’s The Crafty Art of Playmaking is always high on the list. This is a compendium filled with tips and tricks of the trade, written by a man whose 75th play is showing at Cheltenham’s Everyman Theatre until Saturday 25th February. Ayckbourn’s plays have always offered master classes on how to write drama. His works, which usually examine the British middle class, are filled with wry and witty dialogue, and strong, real-to-life characters in larger-than-life, usually hilarious, predicaments. Neighbourhood Watch is no exception. This play, which you can see for the rest of the week, is a tongue-in-cheek examination of a middle-class housing estate and its desire to protect itself from the perceived threat posed by the adjacent working-class estate. The characters’ desire to arm themselves against the working-class youths (just in case they charge the estate with knives and stolen hedge-trimmers) seems to be a searing commentary on current social questions we’ve been vocalising with hats off since the summer riots: what should we do about the feral underclass? How can we protect our homes and property? This hilarious satire of a certain Daily Mail mentality will make you laugh so hard, you’ll wonder why you don’t see Ayckbourn comedies every week. If you want a jolly good giggle and a pint-size political commentary, hot foot it to The Everyman and see this gem. What’s more, you’ll glean truckloads of writing advice without even noticing. Tickets from £10 are available at: www.everymantheatre.org.uk.
Lucy Tyler is a playwright and a lecturer in Creative Writing at The University of Gloucestershire.