It's your road an' all
Set during one night on a Lancashire road in the 1980's, 'Road' is a play that deals with very real issues, sometimes with a comedic touch, delving into the lives of people on the poverty line. Think Mike Leigh meets 'Shameless'.
To quote Gennie, one of the directors: "It in turns makes you laugh, sad, angry and weary to the fact that we're here again. It resonates with today's media portrayal of 'benefit scroungers'. A portrayal of the poverty trap, how easy it is it to fall into it and how hard it is to climb back out: it shows the hopelessness of some, but in others the determination to live on."
The play has become a classic text in Drama Colleges throughout the country owing to its compelling characterisations and the opportunities for bravura performances, but it deserves a wider audience, especially in today's political climate.
Suitable for adult audiences only, it is an entertaining and thought-provoking piece.
POST-SHOW TALKS FOR ROAD by Jim Cartwright
Ever wanted to find out more about the performance you've just seen? Then join us after the show on Monday 30th and Tuesday 31st January for a question and answer session with members of the acting company and crew.
This will be an opportunity to find out more about the acting process and what it was like to bring the production to life on stage, and to find out more about the creative vision behind the production and its technical challenges, from the point of view of the set, lighting, sound, costume and properties teams.
These sessions are very informal, are free of charge, and there is no need to book in advance. You are welcome to attend either or both sessions. Sessions will take place 20 minutes after the end of the production.
There will be smoking on stage under The Smoke-free (Exemptions and Vehicles) Regulations 2007.
This production contains extremely strong language.
Make no mistake, their situation is bleak. This 1980s Britain, in the hard hit North-West. Thatcher's cuts have bitten deep and characters in this deep dark comedy are permanently out of work, their lives fuelled by drink, bad sex and despair, shot through with occasional brief glimpses of hope.
The play is constructed as a series of sketches, each an expression of life behind the walls of the houses along a street so bare and broken it is known simply as Road. Coronation Street it ain't. Albert square doesn't come close.
The format allows for some fine performances. This brilliant cast squeeze every drop of emotion out of their characters' sad lives, for whom the greatest sadness of all is that they know they are doomed. They are like lost souls on a sinking ship. There’s the Professor, bravely and pointlessly recording snippets of street wisdom by his neighbours, and Jerry (each played by Pete Bagley), mourning his lost past. There’s Molly (Emma Withers), a genteel old lady who swigs vodka from the bottle. There’s Carol (Georgia Kelly), who’s bruised elegy: “Where’s nice - f*****d off; where’s soft – gone hard,” tolls a passing bell. And there's Scullery (Dan Gough), a leering goggle eyed street rat who sees all and judges nothing, and guides us through this mess.
This would be unbearably bleak, and frankly boring, were it not for the sheer energy and conviction of the performances and the lyricism of the writing. Only occasionally did it go a bit too far, as in Joey’s (Pete Meredith) slow suicide scene with Clare (Karen Evans), which like opera went on for too long, though the performance of it was great. Marion’s (Emma Withers) magnificent, drunken showdown with Brian (Steve Brown), which spilled out into the auditorium, brought a round of applause in its own right.
Are things so different now? Go down any city centre on a Saturday night and see. What was missing from this Road was drugs, which would have been there in real time and which bring a different kind of escape. Booze brings all forms of people together, and so this sad, magnificent, tortured, forlorn, beautiful street full of proud, defeated, self-defeating people stuck together because all they had was each other.
Road is a gut wrenching reminder of how close to despair many of us can come, and a warning of what might be yet to come.
Nick Le Mesurier