Review: The Neighbourhood Watch

Will Amott was excited to see ‘The Neighbourhood Watch’ presented by ‘Watch This’ but was left disappointed.

I hate the fact that I didn’t love this.

This was a student-written affair, and, of all the affairs we see in life, that is one I earnestly support. Universities are seedbeds for new talent, and new talent is (naturally) what keeps the ol’ theatre scene alive, producing new masterpieces for new audiences. It is with regret that I say, a masterpiece was not made.

The Neighbourhood Watch, presented by Watch This, written and directed by Stuart Found, is a personal story of one man’s struggle against the backdrop of an emerging Screen Shot 2013-05-03 at 13.21.02fascist Republic. Thomas Warris (Jack Alexander) builds a relationship with Benjamin Sike (a statuesque and surreptitious Jake Williams) and this onsets a series of events that are supposed to marry with the ‘thriller’ tag the play was given. All of the right elements are here, but the play is simply too long and overwrought to be a thriller. Penny (a salty Jess Rogers) is our villain, a government bitch with a vendetta, but Rogers only really comes into her own late in the play when the writing allows her to.

“There is far too much What, and not enough Why”, said one audience member in the first of two intervals – yes, two intervals – and this was true even at the play’s close. We wanted to be asking ‘Ooh, why did he do that?’ but instead we were left scratching our heads thinking, ‘What the hell?’

The cast struggled with generally underwritten characters. Thomas Warris is put through the shit, to put it bluntly, and Alexander tries his hardest with what he’s given but he’s given very little. We should root for the main character, support them, feel for them, care for them – I felt nothing. His relationship with Alice (Roo Frith) is touching, though. However, there was a lot of mystery surrounding her character that ultimately led to nothing.

From the moment Dory Wainwright came on-stage as Catesby, I was relieved to finally Screen Shot 2013-05-03 at 13.21.12have a character that made complete sense, both in the writing and performance. I should disclaim that Wainwright attended my secondary school, he has improved a helluvalot since then. He was the most consistent performer of the night, delivering exposition-riddled speeches in that perfect way where the audience don’t feel like they’re being cheated.

Scenes were often too long, and time was devoted to creating images on stage with no dialogue or real narrative addition, all at the sacrifice of pacing.

The lighting and sound were solid throughout, and there were glimpses of excellent dialogue, but the play was overlong and really needed a script editor, particularly in the climactic confrontation between Warris and Sike.

Found writes in his director’s note that he wishes “most of all that [the audience] believe [he] had a story worthy to tell”. I do believe the story at the heart of this production is more than worthy to be told, but he needed to focus his energies and try and tell it in a more practical way for a UoB production.

The Neighbourhood Watch tried to be far too big and XXL was a size that just didn’t fit.

The show was performed 30th-2nd May 2013, in the Amos Room in the Guild of Students.