Neighbourhood Watch (Ensemble Theatre)

rsz_watchoneVenue: Ensemble Theatre (Kirribilli NSW), Dec 12, 2013 – Jan 25, 2014
Playwright: Alan Ayckbourn
Director: Anna Crawford
Actors: Brian Meegan, Fiona Press, Gillian Axtell, Douglas Hansell, Lizzie Mitchell, Jamie Oxenbould, Olivia Pigeot, Bill Young

Theatre review
Alan Ayckbourn’s brilliant script is a work about the anxieties of middle classes in English suburbia. Its comedy is flamboyantly unhinged, and bears the strong flavour of absurdist British humour that is loved on stages and television the world over. His characters are quirky and colourful, yet complex enough to prevent them from becoming mere caricatures. Ayckbourn’s construction of “the frightening other” is masterful. We watch the onstage characters imagine a threat without actually seeing any substantiation for their terror. Audiences are implicated into the farce being performed, because we share in the imagery of the imagined enemy, but the play constantly reminds us of the stupidity in the scenarios being presented and indeed, the irrationality of those fears.

Brian Meegan is an effective leading man, playing the neighbourhood watch group leader Martin Massie with charm and energetic ardor. All the action is structured around him, and he displays great commitment and gravitas that holds the plot together. Jamie Oxenbould plays the cuckolded Gareth. His characterisation is idiosyncratic and subtle, turning a smaller part into a memorable, and very odd, stand out role.

Direction of the play focuses on plot trajectories, resulting in very clear storytelling, and amusing discourse on themes and concepts. However, interpretation of the play’s comedy elements falls short. There is an emphasis on realism in performances while the text seems to require a much broader comic style. Potential for laughter resides in virtually every line of Ayckbourn’s sharp writing, but his wit is not always strongly delivered.

Neighbourhood Watch deals with issues of class and hypocrisy in our societies. It exposes what we all know to be true, but in a way that surprises and fascinates. Its characters are simultaneously familiar and unpredictable, and they present a story that we can all relate to, regardless of which side of the fence we imagine ourselves to be situated.

5 Questions with Darren Mapes

darrennmapesWhat is your favourite swear word?
The “C” word. Anyone who is offended needs to play the c*nt game. I’ll teach you how to play over a couple of drinks 🙂

What are you wearing?
Bonds. I’m a simple guy.

What is love?
Sister Mary Bruno told me “God is Love” as she beat me with a ruler.

What was the last show you saw, and how many stars do you give it?
Carrie the musical, 4. I’ve always wanted to have Kathy Bates over for dinner, but now I’ll just ask Margi de Ferranti instead, her performance was incredible.

Is your new show going to be any good?
It’s gonna be hilarious. The Golden Girls and puppets? How can you go wrong? 🙂

Darren Mapes is performing in Thank You For Being A Friend, part of the Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras 2014 festival.
Show dates: 14 – 28 Feb, 2014
Show venue: Seymour Centre

5 Questions with Ashley Bell

ashleybellWhat is your favourite swear word?
‘Fuck’ has a multitude of uses, and I’m a big fan of versatility.

What are you wearing?
A knitted green and gold Gorman dress. So blatantly Australiana! However I feel wool was a bad choice on such a muggy Sydney day. Sweat’s sexy, right?!

What is love?
“…Baby don’t hurt me.”

What was the last show you saw, and how many stars do you give it?
The last show I was meant to see was Summertime In The Garden Of Eden last week by Sisters Grimm/Griffin Theatre, but something came up and I didn’t get to go which was such a shame because I heard it was amazing! Lots of glitzy drag, exotica and American deep south references, with lots of cultural and gender reversals. It sounds like something I’d be right into, design-wise, so I’m thinking of re-booking so I don’t miss out!

Is your new show going to be any good?
Of course! The cast and crew are enthusiastic and passionate, and we’ve got a great script and great talent ready to show Sydney what they’ve got.

Ashley Bell is Costume Designer for Wittenberg.
Show dates: 7 – 25 Jan, 2014
Show venue: Old Fitzroy Theatre

5 Questions with David McLean

rsz_david_mclean_-_main_-_1_-_2013What is your favourite swear word?
Bawbag. It’s a derogatory Scottish slang term – translated into sophisticated English as the male scrotum (a bag for your balls…get it? Sorry!) – but is commonly used as a casual insult against people who are annoying, e.g. “Did you see the state the boss got in when I rocked up 2 minutes late for that meeting? What a total bawbag!”

What are you wearing?
Well, as a newbie to the world of acting, I can’t give up my day job just yet (…!), so when I’m not busy engineering an accelerated route to Hollywood, you can find me working as a Business Analyst at ABC. Today’s dress code is a pair of chinos, brown shoes and an open collared pink shirt. When I worked in London, a few of the lads in the office and I started up Pink Shirt Thursdays, which has now become somewhat of a global phenomenon. There’s a Facebook group, so get involved!

What is love?
I’m not entirely sure what love is yet, but as a wee message for the girls out there who don’t believe in it and think us guys are only after one thing (sex)… well, you’re so wrong!!! We also want food.

What was the last show you saw, and how many stars do you give it?
Sucking Dublin, a NIDA graduate showcase at The Parade Theatres in Kensington. Set in Dublin in the late ’90s, it centres on the tragic lives of 5 young Irish people tormented by rape, drugs and violence. My dialect coach was working with the students on their Irish accents for the show, and as I was graduating from Screenwise around the same time, I thought it’d be a good opportunity to check out what I’d be up against in the industry 😉 All in all, it was a great evening; the performances from each of the five actors were authentic and truly engaging, and I’m sure all of them will go on to be very successful. I’d give it a solid 4/5 stars.

Is your new show going to be any good?
And What A Damn Fine Morning It Is! the show places me up against my next door neighbour, and lifetime rival, Ted (played by Sam Dugmore, an awesome talent), in an hilariously witty, egotistic battle. This will be the first ever time I’ve performed on stage, so I’m looking forward to rising to the challenge and hopefully putting on a great show for all of you. Stephanie Merriman is directing and has been a joy to work with in rehearsals. Some of the improv exercises we’ve been doing have reduced me to tears of laughter! She has a great way of getting the best out of her actors, so here’s hoping Sam and I can make her proud when it comes to show time.

David McLean @mcleandave makes his Australian debut in And What A Damn Fine Morning It Is!, part of Short+Sweet Theatre (Week 2).
Show dates: 15 – 19 Jan, 2014
Show venue: King St Theatre

5 Questions with Jeffery Self

jefferyselfWhat is your favourite swear word?
Mother fucker. Even though I’ve never actually fucked my mother and I have no interest in doing so.

What are you wearing?
It would only depress you to hear.

What is love?
Diane Keaton.

What was the last show you saw, and how many stars do you give it?
I saw Beyonce in concert last night and it literally FORCED ME to want to have reckless gay sex.

Is your new show going to be any good?
It won’t be as good as Beyonce but it’ll be better than reckless gay sex.



Jeffery Self is performing in Desperate Houseboys, part of the Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras 2014 festival.
Show dates: 18 – 28 Feb, 2014
Show venue: Seymour Centre

5 Questions with Lizzie Mitchell

lizziemitchellWhat is your favourite swear word?
Can’t go past “fuck”, although I try to keep swearing to a minimum in front of my toddler!

What are you wearing?
Vintage sundress, great in the heat!

What is love?
Happiness and pain and everything in between.

What was the last show you saw, and how many stars do you give it?
Rapture, Blister, Burn at Ensemble. I’d give it 5 stars! The performances and the direction were exquisite!

Is your new show going to be any good?
Alan Ayckbourn’s Neighbourhood Watch is a terrific play and our production absolutely does it justice! Anna Crawford’s expert direction has shaped the performances to perfectly blur the line between comedy and drama and keep the audience in fits of laughter and tears till the very end. It’s a play that will catch you off guard and render you changed at the very end, who doesn’t love that! It’s a pleasure to be a part of it!

Lizzie Mitchell is starring in Neighbourhood Watch.
Show dates: 12 Dec, 2013 – 25 Jan, 2014
Show venue: Ensemble Theatre

5 Questions with Tom Royce-Hampton

tomroycehamptonWhat is your favourite swear word?
Bollocks – feels good to whisper or yell, it’s an explosion of emotion and can carry as much venom or comedy as the situation requires.

What are you wearing?
My trusty (and hole ridden) white t-shirt, shorts and bare feet.

What is love?

What was the last show you saw, and how many stars do you give it?
The Andrea Kellar Trio at Bennetts Lane with Tamara Murphy and legendary drummer Allan Browne, out of 5 stars I give it 6!

Is your new show going to be any good?
This is going to be an incredible collaboration uniting the undeniable force of nature that is taiko drumming with the intricate beauty and strength of Indian classical dance. Nearly two and a half years from conception this production has grown into a truly unique feast for the senses.

Tom Royce-Hampton is performing in Chi Udaka, part of Sydney Festival 2014.
Show dates: 16 – 18 Jan, 2014
Show venue: Seymour Centre