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Review: Road, at Royal Court Downstairs

Timely revival of seminal play set in Thatcherite era has much that resonates with today's Austerity Britain

10 August, 2017 — By Lucy Popescu

Mike Noble and Michelle Fairley in Road. Photo: Johan Persson

JIM Cartwright’s seminal play about the disenfranchised working class living in Thatcherite Britain in an unnamed Lancashire town has lost none of its power. Loneliness and poverty are the play’s pervasive themes.

First produced at the Royal Court in 1986, the reasons for Road’s revival are clear in John Tiffany’s imaginative production – there is much that resonates with Austerity and post-Brexit Britain.

Lemn Sissay, as the wily Scullery, is a charismatic narrator who leads us down his local street to meet the various residents. Cartwright combines just the right measure of anarchic humour with more thoughtful scenes, and the cast rise to the occasion.

Many of the characters numb the frustration of their lonely existence with binge-drinking and casual sex. One of the most memorable scenes in the play is when a tanked up, middle-aged women (Michelle Fairley) attempts to seduce a soldier, much younger than herself, who is so drunk he is sick in his chips.

Road evidently helped pave the way for the in-yer-face theatre of the 1990s and TV shows like Shameless. It’s great to see a large cast outside the West End and this is a joyful and timely revival.

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