Road by Jim Cartwright
A Curve and De Montfort University Co-Production
Directed by Cara Nolan
Thursday 18th – Saturday 20th May
If you’re a regular visitor to our website, you may know that I am a huge champion of young talent. I love to see them given the opportunity to practise their art and explore their craft. This Made at Curve and De Montfort University co-production does exactly that for an ensemble cast of eighteen young adults.
Road iswritten by Jim Cartwright, one of the U.K.’s most successful playwrights. He is the author of Bed, Two and The Rise and Fall of Little Voice. Cartwright has a unique ability to capture working class concerns and themes in dialogue that is both naturalistic and poetic. I am a huge fan.
Here we are then transported back to Thatcherite Britain in the 1980s. On an unnamed road in a working-class northern town, there is poverty, there is squalor, and the terrorist threat is very real. In fact, ‘All of life is chucked here.’ Our guide through the morass is Scullery, gamely played by Ella Gibson.
Set design by Abby Clarke is hugely inventive. Full use is made of the Studio space with split levels, walls that can be moved, and a plethora of windows on the gantries from which characters can peddle their wares.
Brokenness is manifest. The exterior walls are a drab grey, bricks are missing and even the road sign is without a name. Props are excellent, too. Irons without steam, cumbersome TV sets and Hoovers with dust bags lend authenticity.
Costumes by Edd Lindley take me right back to my teenage years. Puffballs and pop socks, grey suits with a sheen; perhaps it’s a good thing that some items are best left where they came from!
What follows is a series of vignettes and monologues that allow the young cast to inhabit a full and diverse range of characters. Amirah Abimbola Alabere impresses in a fully committed performance as Joey who begins to starve himself as a coping mechanism. In his opinion, ‘The world’s a fat toilet.’
I also enjoy Emily Fenn as the Professor who keeps records of his memories of life on the Road. Prostitutes with price tags on their shoes, being one such example. £3.32, in case you were wondering.
Kyron-Ellis Bryan also brings light relief as Bisto the D.J. enthusiastically encouraging the audience to join in the dancing.
Notwithstanding, there are considerable first-night nerves. Lines are said too quickly, and I find myself straining to hear at points. Hopefully, these issues can be rectified as the young actors settle into their roles.
Overall, Road brings hope for better days without shying away from the brutality and pain of the inhabitants’ current reality, sometimes positioning suffering and joy side by side without trying to reconcile them. That’s what makes this play so timely. It is a lament, but a hopeful one, nonetheless.
Age Recommendation: 16+
Running Time: 2 hours 20 mins (including interval of 20 mins)
Production photography: Kieran Vyas