Neighbourhood Watch, ImpAct Theatre on tour

neighbourhoodwatchAS UKIP posters appear across the nation, Alan Ayckbourn’s 2011 play Neighbourhood Watch is a timely reminder about what can happen even with the best of intentions.

Martin Massie and his older sister Hilda have lived together all their lives, since their mother died giving birth to Martin and their father some years later.

They have recently moved to a new house on the Bluebell Hill Development, where they have emphasised their Christian beliefs by putting a small statue of Our Blessed Lord in the garden, alongside Martin’s beloved gnome, Montmorency (Monty for short).

Over the fields from the sitting room is a housing estate, just in view, and Hilda welcomes the expansive vista.

But at Bluebell Hill, there are those who feel their security and privacy is at risk from the estate dwellers, and when a young man is spotted shinning over the party wall that separates the Massie garden from that of neighbours the Bradleys, Martin takes the law into his own hands and apprehends the miscreant, snatching a bag the boy is carrying.

Bringing it back into his sitting room, where a small welcome tea party is in progress, he is warned by the former Army and security guard Rod that, without a fence at the end of the garden, Martin and his sister will be prey to vandalism, burglary and worse from across the field.

So begins the setting up of the Neighbourhood Watch scheme that eventually has the national press in thrall, as the Bluebell Hill residents create their own ghetto with its own strict governance.

Martin becomes a hero, tipped for national stardom, promoted by the committee but by none so passionately as his sister Hilda.

It would be as much of a pity to tell you how it all turns out as for you to miss this wonderful ImpAct Theatre production, on tour until Saturday 22nd March.

Pat Richardson directs with a keen eye for the wonderful satire that underpins the story, and is brilliantly served by her cast, many of them new to the company.

Lee Tilson’s Rod is a marvellous comic creation, and one who is all too recognisable for anyone who has attended NW meetings.

Steve Soutar is the perfect Martin, charming, charismatic, honourable … and repressed.

Hilda is the deep one, and Naomi Unwin captures her dogged devotion, and her subterranean urges, with subtle precision.

Stewart Barlow is the very Welsh Gareth, with the exotic Natalie Barthel as his flighty wife.

John Sivewright manages just the right balance of aggression and puzzlement as Luther Bradley, and Marie Bushell is totally convincing as his music teacher wife.

And Stephanie Fereday makes the best of her moments as the journalist-manque.

It is a hilarious comment on the state of the suburban nation, perfectly performed by a company at the top of its considerable game.

And you can still see it, at at the Barrington Theatre in Ferndown on Tuesday 18th, Verwood’s Hub on Wednesday 19th, The Exchange at Sturminster Newton on Friday 21st and the Mowlem Theatre in Swanage on Saturday 22nd March.


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