DramaNorth WestReview

Road – Oldham Coliseum

Reviewer: Rebecca Cohen

Writer: Jim Cartwright

Director: Gitika Buttoo

You’re all invited to Road. A place that’s as gritty, real and as poignant now as it was in 1980s Thatcher’s Britain. Where behind every door there’s a story, real lives being lived and raw emotions being felt.

It shouldn’t, but Jim Cartwright’s play, currently showing at the Oldham Coliseum, is as relevant today – especially with the cost of living rise – as ever. Led by drunk and often disgusting Scullery (superbly portrayed by Richard J Fletcher) you’re introduced to an array of characters and one night of their lives on a derelict street. Each one of them is trapped in their own life crisis, in their own hell. Loneliness, desperation, unworthiness – it’s all covered, often with dark humour masking the bleak reality of a working class world tarnished by injustice, deprivation and poverty.

From the moment you enter the auditorium, Director Gitika Buttoo makes sure you are integrated into Road. The characters are there, dancing to Wake Me Up Before You Go Go, drinking on the alley, playing darts, making you laugh, making you feel uncomfortable, bringing you into their world by breaking the fourth wall and stepping off the stage into different spaces of the theatre. The casting is second to none, each of the actors perfectly suiting the roles they have been given. Rather than an intricate plot, this play mainly consists of segregated monologues and scenes, with the occasional coming together of characters. Some of these are naturally more memorable than others, with stand out moments including Clare and Joey’s food strike, Louise, Carol, Eddie and Brink’s raucous and emotional after party, Molly’s trip down memory lane and a wonderfully choreographed soldier scene.

Many of the actors, as is often the case with this particular production, take on multiple characters throughout the course of the show, showing real versatility and skill. Former Coronation Street actress Paula Lane, especially, is a true example of this, expertly switching between a range of ages, temperaments and accents superbly and with real believability. 

The set too has been perfectly put together, every inch of the stage utilised to transport the audience from pub, to living room, to bedroom, to kitchen. No big set changes, but rather quick transitions from scene to scene, from the external run down road to inside the decrepit flats. The attention to detail with costume, music and even what’s playing on the television (how lovely to hear Brucey again!) also can’t be faulted, ensuring Cartwright’s realist play is as authentic as possible.

This brutally beautiful script has been interpreted and reinvented superbly, taking you on a journey of laughter, heartache and scary relevancy that is as important now as it was more than 30 years ago. Go visit, it’ll hit you right in the heart.

Runs until 1 October 2022.

The Reviews Hub Score

Brutally beautiful

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The Reviews Hub - North West

The North West team is under the editorship of John Roberts. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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