Cartwright’s play is often staged in promenade, so the audience follow Scullery, played by Sissay, down the road to meet the locals. Confined instead to the Royal Court stage, designer Chloe Lamford builds a stark and drab street, with stairs that descend to the audience and a glass square that acts as an indoor space, rising out of the stage.
Each scene explores different characters, the similar motifs are a search for sustenance, a desire to live fully, and a questioning of who or what has spoiled life. In a particularly horrific scene, Shane Zaza’s Joey chooses stay in bed and starve, comparing his hunger to a religious experience. In another, the brilliant June Watson as Molly, an older woman on the street, puts on her face while talking to herself, having nowhere to go. Cartwright’s characters are smart and ambitious, but in an environment which lends no opportunity to them, their energies and talents are wasted.
Michelle Fairley dazzles and offers some of the best comedic moments as Helen, a persistent woman who brings home a paralytically boozed soldier. Fairley shows Helen’s desperation as both exhaustion and fierce resolve. Faye Marsay as Louise is also comedically brilliant. In the climactic scene, a life-affirming and haunting ritual set to Otis Redding’s Try a Little Tenderness, she and Liz White as Carol brilliantly demonstrate their pent-up anger and frustration but also the vulnerability of wanting to hope, and wanting to dream.
The only disappointment is a half-hearted attempt at audience integration. Road calls for an intimate and dynamic experience between actor and audience, with Scullery as the mediator. But here at the Royal Court the roles remain static, with a few cursory call-outs to the audience.
Nevertheless, at its best Road is an invitation to look into others’ lives without judgment, but still with a great deal of intimacy. Its relevance is almost unquestionable, and with strong performances and slick direction, Road is sharp and stirring theatre.
Click here to find out more about the Royal Court 2017 Season
|What||Road, Royal Court review|
|Where||Royal Court Theatre, Sloane Square, London, SW1W 8AS | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Sloane Square (underground)|
21 Jul 17 – 09 Sep 17, 7:00 PM – 9:30 PM
|Price||£12 - £45|
|Website||Click here to book via the Royal Court|