The Forum Theatre, Romiley; Wednesday 22nd November 2017
Three decades have passed since Lancastrian dramatist Jim Cartwright wrote his Thatcher-era play Road – a Northern-centric depiction of life without money, happiness or opportunities – and worst of all no prospect of ever attaining those things.
At roughly the same time that Cartwright wrote Road, the Northern Kids Theatre Company was formed. Now operating as NK Theatre Arts, Cartwright’s original play has been bought up to date, boasting a modern dress sense, a better-looking selection of drinks, and a much more youthful cast – though all the underlying themes are just as relevant today as they would have been 30 years ago.
Performed in NK Theatre Arts’ base at the Forum Theatre in Romiley, the road in question is physically bought to life as a long stage which deliberately splits the audience into two halves. The amusing effect of this is not too dissimilar to being sat at a bus stop in a dodgy part of town just as all the local characters decide to get you involved in their business.
Road isn’t really a conventional play with a continuing plot that can be followed in order to create a specific story. It’s much more of an observational piece of theatre where events unfold around a comical assortment of quirky characters, each of which seems to defend a sad and sombre back story behind their mostly jovial outward countenance.
At one end of the road is Scullery’s Sex Parlour – Scullery being a local wise guy who likes to invite the bored ladies of the road up to his rooftop playground for good times. At the other end of the road is a house, number 69, where a very angry Northern man shouts at everyone from his window, demanding to know what the bloody hell is going on out there.
All sorts of other happenings bring this ordinary road to life: some lads invite a couple of ladies back to their place at closing time; a meditating fighter recalls his showdown with a gang of skinheads; and a strong-silent military man has the quickest sex of his life.
Road is a tumultuous and foul-mouthed collection of theatrical short stories – some are incredibly sad tales of despair and suffering, yet others are hilariously funny. This could be any road anywhere, it is probably the story of your own road, creatively and entertainingly bought to life by a very talented group of young performers.