Mark Kilmurrry’s production takes us deeply into this Willy Russell world and its two loveable, vulnerable, very recognisable characters who stay in our hearts long after the house lights have come back up.
We walk into the theatre to be greeted with music from the nineteen eighties, the period in which the play is set, and Anna Gardiner’s finely detailed set of an academic’s chamber.
“It is in everyone’s nature to try and protect yourself and the people you love, but I think taken to the absolute extreme, that can be quite isolating, counterproductive and even dangerous. Ayckbourn has done a brilliant job in exploring that theme in a hilarious play. It is so funny and so dry and I think it’s one of his best works.” Anna Crawford, Director, NEIGHBOURHOOD WATCH
A well crafted cautionary tale which catches audiences ‘on the hop’, often not knowing whether to laugh or to cry, awaits theatre patrons who make their way across you to Kirribilli’s waterfront Ensemble Theatre.
It is one thing for brother and sister pair Martin and Hilda to start up a Neighbourhood Watch group after an unpleasant incident takes place shortly after they move in to the plush new Bluebell Hill housing estate which is unfortunately situated close to a Council estate, populated by some less than charming individuals.
It is something altogether more bizarre, after tensions escalate between the group and riff raff from the council estate, that a mere fortnight after the Neighbourhood Watch group’s first meeting, Bluebill Hill has become a full-on gated community with security fences and armed patrols. The committee members, no longer believing in the ability of the police to enforce security, have taken the matter into their own hands and become their own erstwhile vigilante group.
It is a dark world that Ayckbourn shows us, where people’s small mindedness and pettiness dominate. Anna Crawford’s production, (the play had its world premiere in Scarborough in the UK in September, 2011),serves this incisive play well. Designer Amanda McNamara and lighting man Peter Neufeld set up the play’s world well, and Crawford wins strong performances from a good cast.
Brian Meegan and Fiona Press play the leads, Martin and Hilda, a rather precious, conservative pairing who get rattled far too easily.
Bill Young and Jamie Oxenbould have the most colourful roles ,playing ‘headcases’ former security guard Ron and unemployed engineer Gareth who almost take a para-military approach to the escalating conflict.
Douglas Hansell plays the menacing, volcanic Luther. Lizzie Mitchell gives a touching performance as Luther’s mistreated, fragile wife, Magda.
Olivia Pigeot performs the role of the promiscuous, sharp witted Amy- unfaithful wife to Gareth- with verve, as does veteran performer Gillian Axtell who plays Bluebell Hill gossip queen, Dorothy.
Recommended, the Australian premiere production of NEIGHBOURHOOD WATCH opened at the Ensemble Theatre, 78 McDougall Street, Kirribilli, on Wednesday 18th December and runs until Saturday 24th January, 2014.
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