Neighbourhood Watch: Quotes by Alan Ayckbourn"I think it’s all in the title. It’s a cautionary tale. It addresses modern hang-ups such as law and order, health and safety. Are we safe in our beds when there are lawless youths roaming the streets whilst the police seem powerless? It’s tapping into that sort of fear....
"It’s in my dark farce mode. I’ve always been interested in how, out of tiny things, wars are often fought. Whenever history is examined, you always say: is that really what started it? Helen of Troy was responsible for an awful lot! Neighbourhood Watch begins with a genuine misunderstanding which no-one is prepared to stand down from and the reason becomes all but forgotten, but nonetheless it causes a war."
(SJT Circular, July 2011)
"I gave the new play (Neighbourhood Watch) to someone close to me to read and they said ‘good gracious, this is a man who’s taken the shackles off and thrown them out of the window’.
“It is fairly wild I have to say. I feel like with this I’m walking on new flooring and when I feel that, it’s always a good feeling. Sometimes you write a play and you think ‘well this is a bit of this and a bit of that’. When you’ve got 74 you are going to touch base with some of the same characters on occasion, but this feels like I’m consolidating everything.”
(Yorkshire Post, 30 July 2011)
"When I was a lad, the village bobby [policeman] was the guy who sorted things out and nowadays, of course, there is a great mistrust of the law and order forces and people are saying there's a movement to take things into your own hands and I just pushed it a nudge further.... Every time you think, 'I have invented something outrageous', something comes along and you think, 'That is even more outrageous than my play.' Fact is outstripping fiction faster than fiction can keep up."
(The Stage, 8 September 2011)
"2011 is very special because it marks my 75th produced professional play, Neighbourhood Watch. This is about a little group formed with the best of intentions, a neighbourhood watch group. The police are too busy to advise them so they set off, fatally, at the wrong angle and get deeper and deeper into trouble because, as we know, quasi-military societies attract - sometimes - quasi military elements, who are perhaps not the best people to be doing it. They finish up regimenting against the very people they were trying to protect. It’s really quite a topical play - as it turns out, I wrote it last October - but my play is now being seen on the screens [with regard to the August 2011 riots] . It’s a satire, it’s a parody, but it’s quite dark.”
(Ayckbourn In Action, BBC Radio 4, 15 September 2011)
"I'm always a great believer, when I write a play, to narrow it down to the people. Plays are about people for me, not issues - the issues arise from the people."
(Post show follow-up, Stephen Joseph Theatre, 19 September 2011)
"I was interested in the apprehension people were thinking about.... Probably the threat is greatly overestimated, but every time there is a burglary in your area, people say, 'They're getting closer and the police are doing nothing.' You tend to blame the law and order. There is a sort of defensiveness from them which has caused the rift between ordinary people and the police. I just took it one stage further and said, people benignly set up with the best intentions a neighbourhood watch scheme. A responsible scheme with no violence, but a self-governing scheme set up without a very clear remit. As soon as you start, you attract all the wrong elements. And in the middle of the rehearsals, of course, the riots in London started. It was significant that I saw - because I shop a bit on Amazon - that they were restricting the sale of baseball bats to people who didn't have a legitimate cause to use them. They were obviously buying them as protective weapons. This chimed exactly with my play."
(Wall Street Journal, 13 December 2011)
"There are more off-stage characters in this play than there are on-stage, but I think it's an old trick that dramatists use quite often. Nowadays, you have to - for the economics - create the feeling of a community by making the rest of them off-stage."
(Playbill, 28 December 2011)
"My characters are mostly what happens to a community who thinks of itself as God-fearing and well-behaved — how they react to the notional threat, or sometimes the real threat, of violence against them and their property. This is where people are reacting and saying, 'Well, we'd better protect ourselves,' but it's a devil-and-the-deep-blue-sea situation because what happens if you build a gated community and you can't choose who to lock yourself in with against those outside? Maybe there are more dangerous people living three doors down. The whole thing is slightly allegorical because it accelerates at considerable speed. They put up fences with the speed of light and get on with it."
(Playbill, 28 December 2011)
"My piece on inner-city riots was written three months before the London riots so it wasn’t a reaction. I’m interested in reactors who become aggressors when pushed. So yes, I put myself in their shoes and have a viewpoint of the silent minority. But it’s not a case of ‘ahah I must write something interesting about this’"
(Oxford Times, 30 January 2014)
Note: Many interviews and articles about Neighbourhood Watch drew parallels between the play and the August 2011 riots in the UK. It should be borne in mind that Alan wrote the play in October 2010 - nine months before the riots or any suggestion of major civil unrest - and the play was in no way influenced or inspired by real events.
All quotes are copyright of Alan Ayckbourn and should not be reprinted without permission of the copyright holder.