Thurs 16th July - Sat 18th July & Tues 21st July - Sat 25th July 2009
Directed by Nathan Chapman
1987. An unpopular leader is re-elected, the country lives in fear of terrorist attacks and is still reeling from the effects of recession. But for the inhabitants of a Lancashire street, there's a party to go to. The vagrant Scullery is your tour guide, introducing you to an array of characters all trying to find some kind of escape from their squalid existence. Jim Cartwright's play is an arresting mix of humour and pathos, transporting the audience with energy, passion and poetry, leaving you uplifted and reminded of the extraordinary resilience of the human spirit.
'Road' is a powerful ensemble performance that will celebrate the diversity and breadth of talent within Havant's acclaimed Bench Theatre Company in its 40th Anniversary year.
'Road' is the first play written by Jim Cartwright, and was first produced in 1986. The play was initially performed at the Royal Court Theatre "Upstairs", with Edward Tudor-Pole as Scullery, moving "Downstairs" in 1987 with Ian Dury as the narrator. It was later made for television by renowned director Alan Clarke and starred many young actors who later became well-known including Jane Horrocks, David Thewlis, Moya Brady and Lesley Sharp. The play has won numerous awards including the George Devine Award, Plays and Players Award and the Samuel Beckett Award.
'Road' explores the lives of the people who live in an un-named road, in a deprived, working class area of Lancashire during the Thatcher government - a time of high unemployment in the north of England. The action takes place over the course of one evening as the residents of the road prepare to go out, follows them at the club they go to and then on home afterwards. Despite its explicit nature, it was considered extremely effective in portraying the desperation of people's lives at this time, as well as containing a great deal of humour. A passionate, poetic and positive portrayal of working class life it is often performed on a promenade, allowing the audience to follow the narrator (Scullery) along the road and visit different sets and the different homes of the characters.
This play was staged at Havant Arts Centre, East Street Havant - Bench Theatre's home since 1977. Whilst the promenade wasn't practical in the Arts Centre space, the production included action taking place in the bar and gallery, as well as on the stage prior to the start of the show and during the interval.
The production was Runner-up for 'Best Amateur Drama', Peter Corrigan was nominated for 'Best Amateur Actor' for his portrayal of Scullery and Melanie Cole was nominated for 'Best Amateur Actress' for her portrayal of Helen in The News 'Guide' Awards 2009.
|(Joey's Father)||Jaspar Utley|
|(Joey's Mother)||Sally Hartley|
|(Mrs Bald)||Zoë Chapman|
|Eddie's Dad||David Penrose|
|Louise's Brother||Dan Finch|
|Scotch Girl||Nadia Diaper|
|Tom Stanley||David Penrose|
|Assistant Director||Jeff Bone|
|Stage Manager||Megan Green|
|Assistant Stage Managers||Sally Hartley|
Peter Di Fonzo
|Lighting Design||Alice Corrigan|
|Lighting Operation||Jacquie Penrose|
|Sound Operation||Derek Callam|
|Set Design||Nathan Chapman |
|Set Construction||Kevin West |
Peter Di Fonzo
|Set Painting||David Penrose|
|Poster and Flier Design||Nathan Chapman |
|Photography||Dan Finch |
|Front of House Manager||Gina Farmer|
If you'll excuse the pun, I've been down this particular road many times before. With a wide range of characters, its contrasts between comedy and pathos, an episodic structure and plenty of useful and challenging monologues, Jim Cartwright's play lends itself perfectly to a drama teacher looking for material suitable for young actors. As teaching A Level drama is what I do in "real life", it was through my job that I first encountered 'Road'. I have returned to it on several occasions, seeing several professional productions (as well as the seminal Alan Clarke directed film version), reaching it as a set text and watching my students create their own versions of the play. In fact one year I remember overseeing eight separate groups each developing their own particular versions of Road at the same time. Consequently 'Road' takes pride of place at the top of my personal Most Watched list.
Despite having seen it in excess of 50 times 'Road's' impact has never diminished. The writing is just too good, the power of Cartwright's passion is too searing and heartfelt, and the pitch perfect selection of music at the play's climax has an almost supernatural capacity to tug at my heartstrings every time I hear it.
Working on 'Road' with this particular cast, I have thoroughly enjoyed learning more about Cartwright's characters by looking at them through different actors' eyes. One thing in particular that has struck me is that, although the world of the play is more than two decades passed, the similarities between then and now are, at times, uncanny. In the 80s, Britain was acutely aware of a terrorist threat much closer to home than Al Qaeda, it was a decade that saw widespread financial hardship and an increasingly unpopular leader was clinging on to power. Even the culture of the decade seems to be bouncing back to us with bands like Madness, The Specials and Spandau Ballet reforming this year, and many emergent pop artists are breaking into the mainstream with a sound that, with its synthesisers and extravagant imagery, owes a lot to the New Romantics of the 1980s.
Some of the events in 'Road' can leave the play open to accusations that it is depressing - certainly we see on various occasions humanity at its lowest points. Indeed some characters express a distinctly pessimistic outlook, perhaps most succinctly put when Scullery says "And just remember folks, if God did make them little green apples, he also made snot". But for me the lingering message is one of optimism. As the four youngsters, at the play's climax, purge themselves of their fears concerns and disappointments, they provide for us a glimpse of hope, their message of escape unequivocal.
It has been a delight to revisit this Lancashire street once again, and an honour to do so as part of Bench Theatre's 40th Anniversary celebrations.I hope that myself and the cast have done our jobs well enough that you find Road to be as exhilarating, rich, funny, poignant, and enduring as I do.
It has been a thoroughly enjoyable eight weeks working with a fine group of actors who have thrown their talent and enthusiasm behind the production, and I would like to thank them and all the people who have worked tirelessly behind the scenes to make this performance possible.
Thank you for watching, and enjoy the performance.
As part of their 40th anniversary, Bench Theatre are performing one play from each decade of their existence and Jim Cartwright's 1986 opus - Road - represents that turbulent decade in their journey. Cartwright's gritty, foul-mouthed, riotous celebration of one northern road is given vibrant life in Nathan Chapman's production. Chapman has assembled a hugely strong cast from Bench stalwarts and faces that were certainly new to this reviewer, and each and every one of them takes Cartwright's text and runs with it.
Among the old-timers, Peter Corrigan, David Penrose, Sally Hartley and Peter Woodward impress, while Ingrid Corrigan impresses and amuses mightily as the neighbourhood mad old bag. One always has faith in actors of this standing and here that faith is not betrayed.
Among the newer members of the company, mention must be made of Melanie Cole, whose post-disco attempted seduction of a drunk soldier is the comedy tour-de-force of the evening. And Callum West's a fearless performer, too. In two scenes where he does little but listen to music, rarely does the eye stray from him. The latter of those scenes, with Jessi Wilson, Rosie Carter and Jack Cronin, with its life-affirming philosophy in the face of all the Eighties can throw at them, is beautifully played by all, especially Cronin.
If quality local theatre is what you're looking for, look no further than this.
The News, 20th July 2009
The 40th anniversary of the Bench Theatre company continues with the third of five plays under the theme 'State of the Nation', each representing a decade. Jim Cartwright's award winning Road epitomising the 80's, is a protest of the Thatcherite regime, in much the same way as Steven Berkoff's 'Sink the Belgrano!'. It is a collection of diverse characters living in a poor area of a small Lancashire town. The homeless tramp Scullery is the link from street corner to household and from one character to another, during a night on one road. They include young and old, single and partnered, all reeling from the effects of recession, suffering poverty and a distinct lack of morale. Cartwright's insight into their often squalid existence is both depressing and uplifting as he unfolds man's resilience to adversity. For many escapism was taking refuge in sex and alcohol to numb the despair but even starvation in an extreme case, as being a way out.
Road has enabled director Nathan Chapman to showcase the wide variety and wealth of talent this company possesses and the cast of over 20 were outstanding. Demonstrating some very sharp characterisation, many as monologues interspersed with humorous mini sketches. Pre show and interval activity made full use of this large cast.
This is an exciting and vibrant group of actors who consistently produce a high standard with both classic and contemporary works. Their next production in September is an original play by Angela Pressland, A Higher Education, winner of a national playwriting competition specially commissioned for this slot, and it will be eagerly awaited.
remotegoat, 18th July 2009