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Criterion Theatre
Road (2017)
Written by Jim Cartwright
Sat 28th January to Sat 4th February

It's your road an' all

Director – Craig Shelton
Director – Gennie Holmes
Assistant Director – Nikki Gabriel
Production Photos
Scullery – Dan Gough
Louise – Karen Evans
Brenda – Anne-marie Greene
Carol – Georgia Kelly
Brink – Pete Meredith
Eddie – Calum Lake
Dor – Emma Padfield
Bisto – Steve Brown
Professor – Pete Bagley
Set Design & i/c Set Construction – Simon Sharpe
Lighting Design – Paul Harrison
Sound Design – Paul Forey
Wardrobe – Maureen Liggins
Wardrobe i/c – Pam Coleman
Stage Manager – Olivia Holmes
Assistant Stage Manager – Nicola Gabriel
Props i/c – Frances Dixon
Props – Nikki Gabriel
Props – Alex Martis
Prompt – Helen Foley
Artwork Design – Paul Chokran
Set Build – Jess Cornwall
Set Build – Lisa Cornwall
Set Build – Terry Cornwall
Set Build – Frances Dixon
Set Build – Chris Hernon
Set Build – Jenson Jones
Set Build – Grace Knowles
Set Build – Brian Nelson
Set Build – Nicola Newman
Set Build – Terry Rahilly
Set Build – Mandy Sutton
Set Build – Mike Waterson
Set Build – Kevin Woods
Set Painting i/c – Paul Chokran
Set Painting – Pete Horton
Set Painting – Grace Knowles
Set Painting – Judy Talbot
Wardrobe – Terry Balhatchet
Wardrobe – Belinda Campbell
Wardrobe – Nancy Silvester
Wardrobe – Jess Williams
Props – Nicola Newman
Props – Lukasz Nowacki
Sound Operation – Paul Forey
Lighting Operation – Paul Harrison
Lighting Operation – Simon Sharpe
Lighting Operation – Simon Sharpe

Set during one night on a Lancashire road in the 1980's, 'Road' is a play that deals with very real issues, sometimes with a comedic touch, delving into the lives of people on the poverty line. Think Mike Leigh meets 'Shameless'.


To quote Gennie, one of the directors: "It in turns makes you laugh, sad, angry and weary to the fact that we're here again. It resonates with today's media portrayal of 'benefit scroungers'. A portrayal of the poverty trap, how easy it is it to fall into it and how hard it is to climb back out: it shows the hopelessness of some, but in others the determination to live on."


The play has become a classic text in Drama Colleges throughout the country owing to its compelling characterisations and the opportunities for bravura performances, but it deserves a wider audience, especially in today's political climate.


Suitable for adult audiences only, it is an entertaining and thought-provoking piece.




Ever wanted to find out more about the performance you've just seen? Then join us after the show on Monday 30th and Tuesday 31st January for a question and answer session with members of the acting company and crew.
This will be an opportunity to find out more about the acting process and what it was like to bring the production to life on stage, and to find out more about the creative vision behind the production and its technical challenges, from the point of view of the set, lighting, sound, costume and properties teams.
These sessions are very informal, are free of charge, and there is no need to book in advance. You are welcome to attend either or both sessions. Sessions will take place 20 minutes after the end of the production.




There will be smoking on stage under The Smoke-free (Exemptions and Vehicles) Regulations 2007.


This production contains extremely strong language.

Swearing, if done with enough conviction and with attention to the rhythms of language, can be a beautiful thing. Which is just as well because in Jim Cartwright’s play, Road, there is a lot of swearing. An awful lot. It paints a true picture of the characters’ situation. 

Make no mistake, their situation is bleak. This 1980s Britain, in the hard hit North-West. Thatcher's cuts have bitten deep and characters in this deep dark comedy are permanently out of work, their lives fuelled by drink, bad sex and despair, shot through with occasional brief glimpses of hope. 

The play is constructed as a series of sketches, each an expression of life behind the walls of the houses along a street so bare and broken it is known simply as Road. Coronation Street it ain't. Albert square doesn't come close.

The format allows for some fine performances. This brilliant cast squeeze every drop of emotion out of their characters' sad lives, for whom the greatest sadness of all is that they know they are doomed. They are like lost souls on a sinking ship. There’s the Professor, bravely and pointlessly recording snippets of street wisdom by his neighbours, and Jerry (each played by Pete Bagley), mourning his lost past. There’s Molly (Emma Withers), a genteel old lady who swigs vodka from the bottle. There’s Carol (Georgia Kelly), who’s bruised elegy: “Where’s nice - f*****d off; where’s soft – gone hard,” tolls a passing bell. And there's Scullery (Dan Gough), a leering goggle eyed street rat who sees all and judges nothing, and guides us through this mess. 

This would be unbearably bleak, and frankly boring, were it not for the sheer energy and conviction of the performances and the lyricism of the writing. Only occasionally did it go a bit too far, as in Joey’s (Pete Meredith) slow suicide scene with Clare (Karen Evans), which like opera went on for too long, though the performance of it was great. Marion’s (Emma Withers) magnificent, drunken showdown with Brian (Steve Brown), which spilled out into the auditorium, brought a round of applause in its own right. 

Are things so different now? Go down any city centre on a Saturday night and see. What was missing from this Road was drugs, which would have been there in real time and which bring a different kind of escape. Booze brings all forms of people together, and so this sad, magnificent, tortured, forlorn, beautiful street full of proud, defeated, self-defeating people stuck together because all they had was each other.

Road is a gut wrenching reminder of how close to despair many of us can come, and a warning of what might be yet to come.

Nick Le Mesurier


Road is set in a northern town where once there would have been “trouble at ‘t’ mill”.  Trouble is there are no mills any more.  And the mines are disappearing rapidly in this, the year after the end of “’t’ strike”.   Factories have closed, too. So have the offices adjoining them. 
One of the more poignant moments in a bracing plunge back into the murky waters of the 1980's is when a still youthful former clerk looks back at the job that gave some order and meaning to her life. 
And now? “Every day is like swimming in ache,” she says in one of several poetic lines that light up Jim Cartwright’s play like shafts of sunlight piercing a steady drizzle and the heavy showers of four-letter words that rain down from the stage at regular intervals.  This is not an evening for those easily offended.
Road was first performed in 1986 at the Royal Court in Sloane Square, Chelsea, surrounded by bijou mews properties that were being restored by those doing very nicely out of the deregulation bestowed on the City of London by the Thatcher government. 
Compare and contrast with this Road to nowhere – a dead end in every sense of the word.  Nobody appears to have taken Norman Tebbit’s advice, got on their effing bikes and effed off out of it.  “We’ll live and die in these towns,” by Coventry band The Enemy provides the ideal soundtrack for the final curtain. By that time the Criterion cast have given it their all, most of the actors taking on several parts. The exception is Dan Gough who plays the sole role of our guide for the evening with a rumbustious buoyancy and conspiratorial sense of mischief.  Scullery by name; scallywag by disposition. 
With the help of a splendidly flexible set, designed by Simon Sharpe, Scullery allows us to peep into broken lives. 
Venom and menace, bitterness and self-pity abound.  So does alcohol and casual sex.
There are some riotous moments, including a few forays by the cast into the audience.  But for me the most touching scenes are the soliloquies.  Anne-marie Greene captures the desperation of a mother at the end of her tether as she sits on the edge of the stage and talks frankly to the audience through clouds of cigarette smoke.  Pete Bagley looks back fondly on his days as a national serviceman while ironing his tie.  What he really liked, though, was coming home to the Road.  “There were so many jobs then,” he recalls. “Everybody had an apprenticeship in something.”
Cartwright’s play seems surprisingly relevant over 30 years on. After all, we have another female prime minister promising to do something about those “just getting by”.  Trouble is that she has been rather busy just lately doing trade deals with ruthless leaders in the post-Brexit world that people in former mill towns such as this one voted for as a last hope.
Chris Arnot
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