Road

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, and through its novelty promenade nature, has created a highly successful performance

Venue: The Drama Barn
Run: 10 – 12 June 2011
Written By: Jim Cartwright
Co-Directed and Co-Produced By: Laurence Cook & Matthew Beard
Rating: ***

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.

5 comments

  1. Scullery was actually played by Dan Wood. Freddy Elletson played a number of other parts in the play!

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  2. 11 Jun ’11 at 2:42 pm

    Makoto Kawaguchi

    Seeing this Sunday night, and very much looking forward to it. However, I’m fairly certain Dan Wood is playing Scullery, and not Freddy Elletson…

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  3. Road was the best thing I’ve seen in the barn in 2 years. Obviously a reviewer is entitled to their own opinion, however in this case the 3 stars seem incongruous with the review, which most certainly reads like a 4. Yet another instance that proves Nouse’s star system as reductive and inconsistent.

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  4. For all the Nouse haters out there… I’m sorry, but I do agree with the review. Can’t say it is the best thing coming out of the Barn (I still remember Frida fondly) but honestly, having screws inside my right ankle and being a petite height person the loooong time standing up while struggling with tall people was unbearable. Having know that ROAD will be that ordeal (bring back memories of retail life), I will never buy a ticket. Please, DRAMASOC be considerate of orthopedic ppl next time! Also, some of the lengthy scenes (specially that couple) was a bad soap and rest so much of the drama. Overall, 3 stars is much more than fine!

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  5. 13 Jun ’11 at 10:13 am

    Jonathon Carr

    I can understand the problem that you had LaLa and i can completely sympathise, i’m due to have foot surgery so there was a little discomfort for me. (thankfully i knew it was promenade in advance so wore suitable shoes) I think what the show lacked was a warning to say that the performance would be promenade. Of course it was one of the best shows the barn has ever put on but hey what would life be without different opinions eh.

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