The Barn Theatre, Southwick Community Centre
June 26, 27, 28, & 29 2019
by Alan Ayckbourn
Susanne Crosby – Hilda Massie
Julian Batstone – Martin Massie
Derek Fraser – Rod Trusser
Barbara Isaacs – Dorothy Doggett
Ian Mackenzie – Gareth Janner
Emily Dennett – Amy Janner
Andrea Jones – Magda Bradley
Guy Steddon – Luther Bradley
Stage Manager – David Comber
Deputy Stage Manager – Dan Dryer
Lighting Design – Martin Oakley
Lighting Operation – John Garland
Sound Design – Bob Ryder
Sound Operation – Brian Jones
Wardrobe – Maggi Pierce
Wardrobe – Cherry Fraser
Properties – Di Tidzer
Properties – Doffey Reid
Set Construction – Dave Comber
Set Construction – Nigel Goldfinch
Set Construction – Carl Gray
Set Construction – Mike King
Set Construction – Sue Netley
Set Construction – Gary Walker
Poster and Flyer Design – Judith Berrill
Main Photography – Gary Walker
Additional Photography – Susanne Crosby
Promotional Film – Phil Nair-Brown
Publicity – Rosemary Bouchy
Publicity – Susanne Crosby
Publicity – Peter Joyce
Programme Note #1: Neighbourhood Watch
JG writes: “Neighbourhood Watch” was Ayckbourn’s 75th play, written in 2010 as a response to David Cameron’s vision of a ‘Big Society’. I was looking for a comedy and, by coincidence, it was 2016 and Cameron had just finished his term of office having misjudged how that society might use their vote.
Ayckbourn describes it as “a satire, but it’s quite dark”. Like most of his plays, I think it is genuinely thought-provoking and I was principally struck by how, without properly informed leadership, those with good intentions can lead us on a path of potential destruction. As Chairman of the Wick Theatre Company, I will be examining the work of our sub-committees in much greater detail!
Thanks of course go to all my cast, backstage staff, workshop team, technical support, property and costume advisors, publicity team and those who have been around as a ‘listening ear’ when I’ve needed them.
Rehearsals have been really enjoyable due to a lot of hard work by all those involved and I really hope you enjoy the result.
Note #2: Neighbourhood Watch
Sir Alan Ayckbourn must be one of the most prolific playwrights of modern times – his website currently list 83 full-length plays. He has had a long association with Scarborough and his first published play, “The Square Cat”, was performed there in 1959. He became Artistic Director of the Stephen Joseph Theatre in 1972 and remained in that post until 2009, having suffered a stroke in 2006. He was knighted for services to theatre in 1997.
Almost every play he has written has premiered in Scarborough, mostly in the round, and more than half have transferred to London and many to Broadway – his first West End ‘hit’ was “Relatively Speaking” in 1967. Other major successes include “How the Other Half Loves”, “Absurd Person Singular”, “Bedroom Farce”, “A Chorus of Disapproval”, “The Norman Conquests” and “Absent Friends”.
In 1974 he set the record for the most plays being performed simultaneously in the West End.
Publication: Shoreham Herald
Publication Data: July 4 2019 issue – page 26
Reviewer: Elaine Hammond
Text Header: Wick’s dark comedy gives a terrifying vision of society
WICK Theatre Company presented a dark vision of modern society and how people react in times of trouble to the stage at the Barn Theatre in Southwick last week.
Neighbourhood Watch was written by Sir Alan Ayckbourn in 2010 in response to David Cameron’s vision of a Big Society, but those who watched the more recent BBC One drama Years and Years will recognise some of the themes, including fencing off a residential development and interrogating people at the gate.
Ayckbourn intends to show how good intentions can lead to the path of destruction and he took the fenced off idea one step further, with the use of stocks as a punishment and deterrent.
It is all very thought-provoking but also genuinely very funny, though you were aware you were laughing at the ridiculous nature of it all while thinking this is all too possible.
Barbara Isaacs portrays the neighbourhood gossip Dorothy Doggett so well and Derek Fraser is perfectly understated as Rod Trusser, a retired security man with some serious ideas for crowd control.
Ian Mackenzie played Gareth Janner and makes a good job of running out in tears, while Emily Dennett is positively pouting as his wayward wife Amy Janner.
Guy Steddon has only a small part, as the bully Luther Bradley, but he makes it count, especially with his brilliant faces.
Also a winner for facial expressions is the excellent Susanne Crosby as Hilda Massie. It was a shame her brilliant, and extremely important, opening speech was spoiled last Wednesday evening by people arriving late and loudly taking their seats in the front row.
Star of the show was Julian Batstone as Martin Massie, playing him as a bit bumbling rather than masterful but it worked. His face after he is kissed was a winner!
Andrea Jones was Magda Bradley, seeming so small and quiet until her powerful speech about being controlled – and boy did she deliver this so well.
I found the first half to be absolutely hilarious, as did some others last Wednesday evening, though it did not get the laughs I felt it deserved.
The second half took an unexpected turn and at times got rather confusing, as one plot development after another was revealed. It is also rather long, finishing just shy of 10.30pm, but it was an excellent evening’s entertainment.
Publication: Brighton Argus
Publication Data: July 1 2019 issue – page 26
Reviewer: Barry Jerram
Text Header: Neighbourhood Watch *****
ALAN Ayckbourn takes a novel storyline and develops it to its farcical extreme. Picking up on the mood of urban fear, society’s breakdown with its call for a strong community response he illustrates how dangerous it is to encourage “good citizen” vigilantes to uphold law and order.
Martin and Hilda are new arrivals on middle-class development bordering a no-go estate. A minor incident has them forming a Neighbourhood Watch committee whose zealousness escalates into their estate becoming a secure fortress, gated and guarded by the residents.
Ayckbourn blends black farce with serious issues and underlying personal unhappiness. The siblings’ gentle, madcap world collapses as sex, violence and jealousy take over.
John Garland’s direction keps the play moveing but is hmpered at times by the text being a tad overblown. Julian Batstone gives agood perfromance as Martin – moving from naive bumbling innocent into public figure seduced by power and sex while Susanne Crosby is successfula s Hilda’s transition from godliness to ruthless, vindictive manipulator.
There is a touching monologue from Andrea Jones. Derek Fraser is droll as a paranoid ex-security officer whilst Guy Steddon produces comedy from the role of a bullying husband.
There is excellent support from the rest of the cast.
Publication Data: July 2019
Reviewer: Mark Hall
Text Header: A very well put together production which proudly displayed the hard work involved by all
In a brief overview, Alan Ayckbourn’s 75th play is a comedy with darker undertones. It centres around a fictional residential estate which forms a neighbourhood watch team, with the best intentions at protecting the residents, but ends up inadvertently becoming a force de resistance ruling almost every aspect of the residents’ lives.
The story follows brother and sister Martin and Hilda Massie, played by Julian Batstone and Susanne Crosby, as they move into their new house. Retired security expert Rod Trusser (Derek Fraser), Dorothy Doggett (Barbara Isaacs) and Gareth Janner (Ian Mackenzie) accept the invitation to the Massie’s housewarming party. They are shortly joined by next door neighbour Magda Bradley (Andrea Jones) and Gareth’s promiscuous wife, Amy (Emily Dennett).
Without spoiling the plot, the events which start with Magda’s husband, Luther (Guy Steddon) trying to extort money from Martin without success. This leads to the organisation of the neighbourhood watch scheme which, over time, ends up with razor wire fences, ID cards, stocks, sorry a pillory and a manned entrance gate. The play is rather dark in places but retains it’s comedic tones throughout. Two lines which particularly tickled me were “being mad keeps you sane” and “tea first, then war”.
With a small cast, the actors are on stage for a long time. The chemistry between all was excellent and, despite being rather lengthy, the pace was well maintained. All the cast gave exceptional performances but the contrast to the humour, and truly poignant moment for me was when Magda explains why she is covered in bruises. Andrea perfectly captured the poor, downtrodden woman and her speech was exceptionally moving. There was some slight stumbling over lines in places but comedy is all about timing and delivery and every actor accomplished this with aplomb.
The lighting, provided by Martin Oakley and John Garland was simple but effective. The police car effects through the window were particularly effective. Credit must also go to the set construction team. The whole piece takes place in the Massie’s living room but the set was so well designed it felt like you were in there with them in their house with the stairs and hallway visible through the living room door upstage. The sound was clear and concise throughout and the costumes were simple everyday clothes but did reflect the characters accordingly.
A very well put together production which proudly displayed the hard work involved by all.