Neighbourhood Watch review: Wick Theatre Company stages a dark vision of modern society in Southwick

Wick Theatre Company presents a dark vision of modern society and how people react in times of trouble to the stage at the Barn Theatre in Southwick.

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.

Wick Theatre Company's cast for Neighbourhood Watch, Susanne Crosby, Julian Batstone, Emily Dennett, Derek Fraser, Andrea Jones and Barbara Isaacs

Wick Theatre Company's cast for Neighbourhood Watch, Susanne Crosby, Julian Batstone, Emily Dennett, Derek Fraser, Andrea Jones and Barbara Isaacs

Ayckbourn intends to show how good intentions can lead to the path of destruction and he takes 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 are aware you are 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 plays 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’s a shame her brilliant, and extremely important, opening speech was spoiled yesterday evening by people arriving late and loudly taking their seats in the front row.

Star of the show is Julian Batstone as Martin Massie, playing him as a bit bumbling rather than masterful but it works. His face after he is kissed is a winner!

Andrea Jones is Magda Bradley, seeming so small and quiet until her powerful speech about being controlled – and boy does she deliver this so well.

I found the first half to be absolutely hilarious, as did some others on Wednesday evening, though it did not get the laughs I felt it deserved.

The second half takes an unexpected turn and at times gets rather confusing, as one plot development after another is revealed. It is also rather long, finishing just shy of 10.30pm, but it is an excellent evening’s entertainment.