Stage Society Production – “Road” by Jim Cartwright – directed by Alice Berry, George Cooper and Robert Ellis.

‘Road’ is essentially a play about one night in the homes of residents living on any given road in a Northern town in 1987. Not entirely what you would expect to be the first port of call for university Stage Society directors to propose, but even though this may be a rather niche story, directors, Alice Berry, George Cooper and Robert Ellis made a show to behold in their production performed from the 1st to the 3rd February this year.

The show jumps from scene to scene between different lifestyles and personalities of characters ranging from a couple of girls prepping for their night out on the town, to a failed academic trying to resurrect his respect by conducting his “anthropological study of life on the road” with everything else in between.

Whilst very few characters are seen more than once, it is Scullery, the local everyman who everyone knows, who joins the scenes together with his ever comic, upbeat attitude. The audience is always pleased to see him despite the fact we never truly get to hear his story. He is the glue that holds the together the sanity of people on ‘Road’.

The set design was minimal and very appropriate given the characters appearing in the play often have nothing. Scrimping and saving for every last pound, the design fits the play perfectly. A laundry line hanging from the gallery on stage, covered in drying clothes saves us from a view of the rather “intimate” moments that you might see on any given night out. Other parts of the set such as sofas and chairs were used sparingly which tunnelled the audience’s attention on the acting which honestly stole the show.

The acting was executed brilliantly. I know how much effort is required into making a production and the cast deserve any credit that comes their way. The range of the scenes and stories was so vast and some actors did brilliantly to double up/triple up as such differing characters. I couldn’t imagine any other combination or wished that actors had swapped parts. Each actor possessed the ability to make the audience cry, laugh or fear for their dignity (I was sitting in the fortunate enough position to be questioned or pointed out to three times: 1) Have you worked in the asphalt factory? 2) This guy might get a bird 3) I was called Blake Carrington whom I had to google after the show… I’ll take that as a compliment!). Every monologue was treated with respect regardless of tone, meaning or difficulty. It was a perfect blend in a very well managed show.

The directing was expert. Everything that could have been thought of, appeared as though it was. The whole performing space was used including the upper gallery normally used by the tech team during set up. This created some fine comedy and always kept the audience in suspense. The finished product looked very, very professional given the limited budget and significant time restraints (remember, opening night was the day after some of the cast and creative finished their January exams). The dynamics of each scene fit, no scene was too long or too short and as a result the audience was left constantly intrigued with what story they would hear next.

So on my night on ‘Road’, a couple went on a hunger strike, the finest DJ to hit up the north played his set, a street fighter turned Buddhist revealed all, a young girl accidently kneeled in her chips, and two lasses (nearly) did anything for a good time. Many more stories brightened a wonderful night out.

A poignant line which finished the show which is echoed by every character featured in the play is simply “somehow a somehow might escape”. In a world filled with bad news and horror, it is fitting that young people might look to find an escape just like the characters in ‘Road’.

Tim McGovern


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