Vomit, drunkenness, debauchery, despair and hope are all part of Jim Cartwright’s gritty and award-winning play Road, which is powerfully brought to life by the talented Accidentally on Purpose Productions in a dynamic and imaginative way. Road guides us, with the help of our host Scullery, through the lives and stories of the inhabitants of a road in a deprived area of Lancashire in the 1980s, visiting houses, pubs and the like on the way.
The eclectic set of characters of Road are performed by a 16-person cast, some of whom multirole and many of whom sing, and can sing very well. In the duration of this production these characters line the set, which is minimal but well used (a broken down wall, a trolley, an old-style microphone and a record player), and are constantly present, reacting to the stories told onstage. There was, in fact, not a weak performance in the cast and, although some performances shone out above others, all the characters were consistently and credibly. Although Scullery (Joanna Leppink) was, on the whole, engaging, I expected Scullery to be slightly more dynamic and captivating as the guide of the Road experience.
The stage was used effectively, creating the illusion of a promenade experience by the movement of characters in and out of the audience at times and by the varied use of set and areas of the stage to denote new spaces and places on the road. A great artistic touch to this production was the way in which music was used in different scenes to create ambience. Different characters stepped forward to the old-style microphone (situated next to a record player) and sing, which was usually coupled with a character within the scene putting on a record.
With a powerful variety of individual stories, phenomenal script, consistently well-acted characters and inventive use of set and song, Road is heartbreaking, amusing, charming and enthralling - a production utterly full of life.