Neighbourhood Watch (his 75th produced play to date) also originated there, but the single living room location of this darkening comedy sits comfortably in the comparative intimacy of the Tricycle.
In a rather overlong introductory eulogy, Hilda sings the praises of her younger brother Martin, a mild, middle-aged man who came a fatal cropper in the course of doing what he perceived to be his duty as a responsible member of society. In flashback, we witness the events that led from an awkward housewarming party for their new neighbours to this final dedication of a memorial park in his name.
It turns out that the new suburban home they’re so proud of backs onto an estate, full – or so they are led to believe by their middleclass guests- of yobs and hooligans, not to mention drugs, violence and incest. Determined to keep the undesirables out, their plans to protect their properties escalate from the sensible to the ridiculous, including ID cards, medieval stocks to replace the flowers on the roundabout, and enlisting the help of potentially violent vigilantes.
But the real problems already lurk within the confines of their newly fenced-in community where Frances Grey’s provocative Amy is serially unfaithful to her whimpering spouse, Terence Booth’s retired security guard Rod is ready to wield a baseball bat, and wife battering goes on behind closed doors.
Matthew Cottle is particularly impressive as Martin, a gentle, emotionally immature Christian who (much to the disquiet of Eileen Battye’s slightly sinister Hilda) finds himself rising to unexpected heights of passion. And although this doesn’t rank among Ayckbourn’s best, it neatly and entertainingly highlights the pitfalls of taking matters into one’s own hands in the quest for law and order.
Tricycle, Kilburn High Road, NW6 7JR
Until May 5
£14 – £26