Paul Johnson | 05 Aug 2016 02:52am
Photo by David Ovenden
What an extraordinary production there is going on at London’s Bridewell Theatre this week. Not only that but panic mode is setting in; I’m fast running out of superlatives when discussing the ongoing virtuosity of Sedos, and the fear of repetition is becoming a very real threat. Yet again, this young and vibrant company which continuously pushes the boundaries of amateur theatre has treated its oh-so-lucky audiences to a theatrical experience surely equal to that of its professional counterparts… and, it’s worth pointing out, for a mere fraction of the price.
Of course, being Sedos, they prefer not to take the easy route; well, where would the fun be in that! London Road, by Alecky Blythe and Adam Cork, is harrowing, brilliant, and almost impossible to perform. Premiered at the National Theatre in 2011, apart from Bristol Old Vic Theatre School producing the ensemble piece as a student showcase two years ago, Sedos’s current production marks the premiere performance by a non-professional society. Only the bravest will follow suit!
London Road follows the events of 2006 involving the murder of five prostitutes in the Ipswich area by fork-lift driver, Steve Wright. Wright who only moved into no.79 London Road in October 2006 was, just before Christmas of the same year, charged with the murders of all five girls. If you think this peculiar subject matter for a musical then, of course, you’d be right. However, as the production takes hold and you begin to understand how Blythe and Cork have put this unique piece together, you can’t help being drawn into this fascinating portrait of a community. These are the people who you never usually hear about but are affected nonetheless.
Suddenly everything about the musical fits. Both dialogue and songs are written verbatim from interviews Alecky Blythe conducted with residents in and around London Road, as well as some of the working girls more directly involved in the situation. Every stutter, every repetition and every pause has been faithfully preserved by building the music around the “cadence and rhythms of the original speech patterns.” A style which at first comes over as odd and uncompromising soon begins to emit an attractive and even haunting quality.
Sedos director Matt Gould ably assisted by co-director and choreographer, Gayle Bryans and musical director, Jordan Clarke, have together produced a sublime piece of theatre worthy of any stage. The minimalist set design (Gould and Steven King), sensitively lit by Oliver Levett, has also allowed Max Hunter and Christopher Love to include an effective and vivid audio-visual design including full-size digital backdrops and live onstage camera feeds, adding an extra layers of dynamism when it comes to television news reports from Wright’s trial.
Without a significant stand-out role London Road is a perfect example of ensemble theatre – in fact it’s a wonder why only one drama school appears to have taken it on. More importantly, the success of a production such as this will inevitably hang upon every member of its 18-strong cast and, once again, Sedos has dipped into its talent pool and pulled out perfection. From reading the programme it quickly becomes apparent that, apart from its own long-standing members, the company’s reputation also attracts fully trained actors from the elite drama training facilities including RADA, Mountview and Central among others. It’s a healthy sign to see these new faces being cast alongside more regular performers all on a level playing field. There’s a lesson for a few thousand societies straight away.
A final telling point was arguably spotting actress Kate Fleetwood in the audience, one of the National Theatre’s original London Road cast members who earned an Olivier nomination for her role of Julie in the process. She certainly seemed to be heaping plenty of her own praise on the entire cast post-show in the bar.
Photo by David Ovenden
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- : 03/08/2016