"Before again? Somehow a somehow"
by Chris Bearne for remotegoat on 02/11/16

"Road", Jim Cartwright's first play, set audiences by the heels in 1986. Such works of burning social indignation, in this case a raw, 'cri de coeur' for the emerging underclass of Thatcher's Britain, tend either to date or to resonate, but either way to get performed. Tower Theatre's "Road" seems anything but dated. One wishes it merely "resonated", but Cartwright could have written it yesterday ; apart from the odd tweak here and there (more drugs, less beer, the gadgets revolution) it is utterly "now". Would it were otherwise, but if you're looking for a voice, not for the 17 million, but for the unnumbered amongst them who voted "out" from desperation, here it is.

Here it was, as played in particular by those younger cast members (Emily Grimson, Tom Redican, Clare Jospeh and Christopher Sherwood, four roles apiece, excellence all round) who had only the record, the mythology of how it was for the poor in the mean streets of the North West in the Eighties, not the feeling of how it was for all of us back then. For me, there were performances elsewhere in the cast that delighted many of us, no question, commanded our admiration, no doubt, but somehow edged on demonstrating the drama rather than living it. Hard not to tread that path in a play that overtly engages the audience, especially through the frenetically addictive narrator Scullery (Dickon Farmar), but with such robust, gutsy writing, it's not hard to love and be driven by your character, to trust to that. Acting out not needed ...

It's a first play. In spite of its punch, it's not perfect. There's a convention of performance and characters aplenty to be established in the first act. That takes time, and a delightful but rangy set and splendid light and sound work both help and hinder that process. But go with all that and the payoffs cascade. The final scene of the first act, Clare and Joey's ... ah, no spoilers ... is a case in point. So often actors leave themselves nowhere to go, a
a risk especially if you're playing multiple parts, but this production avoided any of that. In the second act powerful scenes multiply, as the ale flows and the panic of yet another day in dolesville grinds to its end. Where is tenderness?The ending itself is tear-jerkingly poignant. These are bone, blood and gristle people, pulsating in the tedium of their lives, perversely fuelled and given voice by their deprivation, outraged, desperate, drunk and funny. This production delivers ...

Chris Bearne

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