Writer: Joseph Miller
Director: James Timpson and Joseph Miller
What a week for this play to debut. The roads and those who use them are the source of a nation’s frustration – fights on forecourts, families under pressure. While fuel supply seems to be (mercifully) a non-issue for the four individuals whose vignettes make up Drivers, watching it this week does add a certain extra heat.
These are the stories behind the anonymous faces we see flashing past us in traffic, or wonder about as we walk in front of them at zebra crossings. Each separate, all linked by one element. We have a nurse who gets hassle after an overtime shift because her expensive ticket for the staff carpark has run out, an Uber driver with family issues, a van driver who means well but ends up in the worst kind of situation, and a young woman battling to navigate the Universal Credit system.
With only brief introductions to each and a limited amount of time to spend in their company, through snappy writing and tight performances we find ourselves becoming deeply intimate with these struggling people. We don’t know him, but watching Warren Graham as Peter the Uber driver as he talks with his son and works out how to be a divorced dad is a gut wrench. With Alex (Bruce Allinson), we come to recognise that even if he’s not the sort of person we’d hang out with, we can still recoil in horror at the hand he’s been dealt. We boil with anger at the unnecessary pressure placed on Perdita Ogbourne’s nurse. And we feel mounting bewilderment and sorrow through Kate Lindsey’s punchy performance as Courtney while we learn how a cash-rich and empathy-poor administration treats the vulnerable and impoverished.
Each of these items is fleeting, a brief spike of feeling before we’re on to the next. They largely work well together, but suffer from some confusing elements in the detail. Wasn’t Alex driving to Norwich? With this sort of efficient packing of content into time, there’s bound to be some items we just need to accept and move on, but there’s a risk (especially with Courtney’s shadowy past becoming clear) that eliding too much means we’re operating on stereotype as a shorthand for character development and there are times with all four stories where this could be the case.
Backed by projected video that is used to great effect with Courtney, Peter and Alex, the stage is sparse with minimal props. With stories like this, there’s not really much else you need to add context and weight. The net effect is a starkly powerful hour, some dips and bumps, but as a premier work from the newly established Uncle Ian Theatre Company it seems to set out a journey of inventive modern writing and strong ideas.
Runs until 2 October 2021