Cheryl Barrett | 22 May 2014 00:41am
Jim Cartwright’s play Road is a powerful ensemble performance about the lives of a group of working class people in the north, trying to find an escape from poverty and their seemingly hopeless existence under Margaret Thatcher’s government. The play is set in 1987 in an unnamed street in Lancashire where local vagrant Scullery, and his fellow inhabitants drink and fornicate as we follow their stories on a normal Saturday night in the Road.
Road is on at the Apollo Theatre, Newport, Isle of Wight until Saturday 24th May and well worth a visit. Well directed by Amy and Dan Burns this production utilises a very clever set designed by Phil Cardew and constructed by a large team. It is a convincing road with house windows high on the wall. Another bedroom is revealed when what is usually the back wall of the stage opens as Scullery reaches up, and as if pulling down a drawbridge, reveals the inside of Joey’s bedroom.Scaffolding and the scattering of rubbish and old furniture in the road create the scenes and air of despair. This is a wonderful set on so many levels, not just there to frame the characters. I thought the staging was excellent, with every space used to good effect. The Road spilled out into the auditorium and balcony and good use was made of every exit. There are some really powerful vignettes and monologues which, thanks to the very talented cast were equally poignant and funny when needed.
There is no real storyline to Road, just a series of stories about the lives of the characters who live there. Fourteen actors play over thirty parts and this is very much an ensemble piece. There are some very good performances from the cast. Maggie Cardew gives a wonderful performance as our guide, Scullery. Played with a genial air and plenty of mischief she carries the play along well. It was only when I checked the programme that I realised it was a woman playing the part – well done, Maggie. There were quite a few stand-out performances during the evening as character after character was introduced and portrayed. Helen Clinton-Pacey as jaded slapper Helen, who is desperate for love and who tries to seduce a drunk, almost comatose soldier is funny yet extremely sad as she realises what she has become. There is a very moving scene with Joey, played by Jono Bate. Joey has gone on hunger strike to protest and is joined by his girlfriend Clare, a lovesick teenager played by Chloe Cooper, who decides to join Joey on his ‘adventure’ and starve to death with him. At times it was difficult to hear Miss Cooper so I lost part of the story, but this may have been due to the positioning of the piece and first night nerves.
Amongst the many characters who live in the road is Skin Lad, a skinhead, well characterised by Steve Reading. Scullery informed us at the beginning that Skin Lad is a nutter. His upper floor bedroom is lit before he speaks and we see him sitting there as if brooding, this adds an air of menace to the character. When he does show us his story we are not surprised at the violence as he physically shows us how he beats people up, yet we are unprepared for the fact that he has discovered Buddhism. The Professor, played by Kevin Wilson, sees himself as an anthropologist and documents life in the street. We see all manner of life in the Road. Amongst the eccentrics and nutters is despairing wife Valerie, played by Susie Chilton, who waits in fear for her unemployed drunk of a husband to come home and beat her up. Whereas other characters carry their scars within, Valerie’s bruises are vividly on show. Sex and alcohol offer a temporary distraction for residents of the Road. Danny Carmichael plays drunk Scot Barry, another excellent performance, and we see him and Marion, Helen Clinton-Pacey hoping for sex but being thwarted when his young daughter appears, Chloe Cooper appears.
Other residents of the Road include Jerry, played by David Pratchett, an old man who cannot come to terms with the emptiness of his life. Eddie, played by Kevin Wilson, is a snappy dresser who takes ages to prepare himself for a night out. His friend Brink, played by Steve Reading bring Carol and Louise, Helen Reading and Amanda Robertson, back to ply them with wine and hope to get them to bed. Otis Redding’s soul cover of Try a Little Tenderness sums up the girls’ thoughts. There are many more characters with stories to tell – some of whom are in the bar and foyer at the start and in the interval, providing us with a play within a play drawing us into their world.
Directors Amy and Dan Burns decided to use puppets for the characters of Mr and Mrs Bald, which works very well. I don’t know whose decision it was to have the characters rolling up and smoking real cigarettes on stage but it added to the realism – a bold move, and so much better than fake ciggies on stage. The lighting and sound team did a great job, I loved the choices of music and the lighting was very effective, especially the lighting under the eaves of the houses to illuminate the doorways and alleyways. With so many characters to dress the costumes were well thought out. Congratulations to all involved. This is first class theatre full of excellent performances and that wonderful set.
- : admin
- : 14/05/2014