Made freely available this week, Manchester Metropolitan University’s third year drama students have tackled Jim Cartwright’s biting black comedy drama Road, his debut play written in the dark days of Thatcherism. You may recall my review of Two by Guildford Fringe Company earlier in the year.
Filmed entirely over Zoom, this snapshot of life in the houses on a typical Northern street is well-portrayed across the talented cast on the cusp of their chosen career. It isn’t just about uniformly-shaped windows: Mina Anwar’s direction thinks about routes into rooms, spaces, and conversations.
Cartwright’s writing remains a harsh and accurate portrait of these people dealing with seismic change and abject poverty; as well as the young at play it deals with older loneliness and cheap sentiment. It is a heady brew which remains powerful and relevant.
The students have taken the challenge of their year’s production online and made it a great success. Very little is overplayed, and in scenes with numerous characters, they are clearly buoyed up by online rehearsal and development.
Sometimes we, as audience, are overlooking quiet and intimate moments; at other times we become complicit in internal monologues. The use of the narrator who speaks directly to camera and bookends the action is a clever artifice which keeps us engaged.
With a two-hour running time (including a brief “interval”) you need to invest your attention, but I found this play transferred well to the format and boasted excellent production values.
Delivered through a private, password-protected link on Vimeo and available to watch multiple times between 9-12 December, Road is presented by Manchester School of Theatre and MaDcapture, designed by Frankie Gerrard and scored by Dave Bintley.