Venue: The Drama Barn
Run: 10 – 12 June 2011
Written By: Jim Cartwright
Co-Directed and Co-Produced By: Laurence Cook & Matthew Beard
When having to stand for long periods of time, my legs have always been almost completely useless at keeping still – yet during last night’s promenade production of Road, they truly behaved themselves and very rarely was I found thinking about a growing aching pain. Though there were instances when the pace of particular scenes diminished to a slow and painful crawl, these were overshadowed by both the fantastically funny moments and the sheer success of how the cast embraced the promenade style.
Having in-character cast members taking tickets immediately set the tone – a distinctly and consistently Northern brogue – for the rest of the evening. Particular praise must be bestowed on Scullery (Dan Wood) for his improvisation before and during the interval of the show. Unparalleled in his off-the-cuff witticisms, he ensured the show hit the ground running. The interval’s quasi-karaoke also helped retain the ongoing mood of the production, which didn’t slacken for any moment within its entire duration.
The pastiche way in which the play portrayed the characters’ lives could have resulted in it being hugely fragmented and disjointed, but there was a real sense of a unifying vein running through the ensemble. Facing the trials of unemployment and disillusionment, combated in nearly all situations through drink, alongside often tried-yet-failed sex and seduction, the characters try to derive meaning and escape the present in their own idiosyncratic ways. This smorgasbord of tactics of coping with 1987 England was hugely powerful, culminating in the final scene of synchronised shouting.
This was only possible by some incredibly strong performances. Fran Isherwood managed to perform the role of the furiously quick-witted tease brilliantly and with apparent ease, while Maddy Crowe’s seduction of the paralytic soldier was a brilliant performance. Much has been said of Wood’s off-script improvisation, but his portrayal of the road’s ring-leader and anti-paternal figure was equally as commendable.
Yet despite this, there were certain scenes when the acting became intolerably lengthened and slow-paced. Though credit must be given for members of the cast such as Prof (Adam Alcock) for having the confidence to leave large pauses in their performances, some scenes lost their poise and strength through being simply too lengthy. What could have been an exceptionally powerful scene between two disenchanted lovers became too sparse, and therefore weakened.
Yet despite these lapses, the production succeeds in creating a snapshot of a community struggling, albeit to no avail, against the times they have landed in. The audience taking the centre of the drama barn, with scenes taking place all around produced an trapping effect which was highly successful. Though to coin the production as merely “different” could be seen as ambiguous and degrading, it shows how Road is very much a breath of fresh air; through its novelty promenade nature, it has resulted in a highly successful performance.