Come Festival time each August, Edinburgh's Traverse Theatre is usually the first port of call for critics and audiences alike, for anyone in search of new writing that's as challenging as it is entertaining. Somehow, miraculously, they never let us down, and easily the best new play I saw there this year was The People Next Door.
The Traverse's in-house production of this boisterously funny and urgently topical play has now deservedly transferred to Stratford East's Theatre Royal. A surprising, touching and occasionally shocking comedy by a young Scottish writer Henry Adam whose previous Edinburgh hit, Amongst Unbroken Hearts, subsequently transferred to the Bush, it turns the 'war on terror' into a domestic issue on a British council estate.
Nigel's innocent life of idleness and spliff is suddenly disrupted when a corrupt policeman comes calling in search of Nigel's half-brother Karim, whom is suspected of being a terrorist. The cast includes the delightful Fraser Ayres and Jimmy Akingbola in the roles they originally created as, respectively, Nigel and one of the upstairs neighbours who has an impact on Nigel's life. For the London season, they're joined by Paul Albertson and Colette O'Neil.
In tone and texture, The People Next Door is like a freshly politicised Jonathan Harvey play, and Roxana Silbert's energised, warm-hearted production is wittily played out on a smashing, split-level set (by Miriam Buether) that brings four separate flats into view simultaneously.
- Mark Shenton (reviewed at the Traverse Theatre)