Neighbourhood Watch

Aug 22 2017 | By More

★★★☆☆  Stately

The Royal Scots Club (Venue 241): Mon 21 – Sat 26 Aug 2017
Review by Hugh Simpson

There is a comic and political bite to the Edinburgh Makars’ Neighbourhood Watch that gives it as much impact as other Alan Ayckbourn productions of twice the length and many times the budget.

One of his most popular of recent years, the 2011 play about a middle-aged brother and sister who are instrumental in setting up a local security scheme is in many ways archetypal Ayckbourn. He examines suburban prejudices in a way that seems gentle at first before heading somewhere much darker as the neighbourhood watch spirals out of control.

Georgia Brown, Dario Dalla Costa, Carol Davidson and Anton Hiett. Pic Martin Burnell

Ayckbourn’s trademark – making you laugh at something, before pulling you up short as you realise the implications of the humour – is much in evidence, and the Makars do very well in this regard.

Martin Burnell’s unhurried direction allows Tina Courtier and Dario Dalla Costa to present the siblings Hilda and Martin with no little subtlety. Uptight, judgemental Christian Hilda and deluded Martin are in many ways thoroughly dislikeable, but are also played with sympathy and realism.

Tom Brown gives retired security man Rod a delicacy that makes his unhinged relish for engineering confrontation even more chilling. Carol Davidson’s gossipy Dorothy is a more straightforward comic performance, but one of great energy.

Hamish Hunter gives engineer Gareth a likeable air at first that makes subsequent events all the more worrying, while Emma Needs makes his wife Amy much more three-dimensional than she could easily be.

believable antagonism

What comes over well here is how people’s ‘principles’, self-regard and lack of empathy can have a corrosive effect on those around them. This is crystallised by the characters of the Bradleys. Anton Hiett gives Luther a thoroughly believable antagonism, while Georgia Smith as Magda has a wounded humanity that helps her deal with what is probably the play’s most troubling moment with aplomb.

While the mix of humour and serious moments is done well, the production does have a serious lack of pace at times. Coming into the Fringe in its last week does unfortunately mean that you have to be up to speed right from the off to compete, and there are definite longueurs. Scene changes seem to take an age, and in between slow moments occur, some of which – but not all – can be explained by a couple of uses of prompting.

Basically, it needs to up the pace throughout, which would give the dialogue a little more snap and make it even funnier. This is an accomplished production that just needs a couple of tweaks to make it outstanding.

Running time 2 hours 45 minutes including one interval
The Royal Scots Club (Venue 241), 29-31 Abercromby Place, EH3 6QE
Monday 21 – Saturday 26 August 2017
Daily at 7.30 pm
Book tickets on the Fringe website:
Company Website:
Facebook: @EdinburghMakars

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