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Alan Aykbourn’s 75th play Neighbourhood Watch is not to be missed, writes Jill Truman

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»For a good night out, it is hard to beat a play by Alan Aykbourn. Superb craftsmanship, combined with dialogue that wittily reflects the foibles of middle England, keeps the audience laughing – perhaps unaware that they are also laughing at themselves.

His 75th play, written at 72, is no exception. Although, because even a brilliantly accurate representation of, for instance, a boring meeting must, inevitably, become boring, the director (Aykbourn himself) could have made some cuts to Act One.

The actors keep the laughter on the boil while managing to reveal the hatred, cruelty, frustration and suffering, that lurks beneath respectability in leafy suburbs. Before our eyes, well-intentioned middle class residents turn into ruthless fascists.

Who, then, are the real villains – these people or the youths from the neighbouring council estate?

Matthew Cottle and Alexandra Mathie as Martin and Hilda, the brother and sister at the centre of the action, give convincing and sometimes moving performances, as does Richard Dennington, the vengeful Gareth. Other characters, however, although consistently amusing, are too cartoon-like to be human.

Neighbourhood Watch is at once an entertaining and frightening warning of the direction in which modern life in the UK may be heading – and not to be missed!

* Neighbourhood Watch is at the Tricycle Theatre until May. Tickets from £14, call 020 7328 1000.

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