Road

Wed 19th – Sat 22nd November 2014

reviews

Joseph Cooper

at 08:17 on 20th Nov 2014

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This play has soul: literally: never has Otis Redding been so fittingly enrapturing, and rarely is an entire piece of music played fully on stage to such great effect; it was one of the longest three minutes of my life, and up there with the best of them. The play also has five stars, because it's excellent. There were a few first night jitters of fumbled lines and dropped props, but these were few and very minor: it didn't really disrupt from the ragged tone of the play, and I'm confident the cast will be more polished for the next performance.

The cast itself was at its best working together: although there were some powerful individual performances, the physically theatrical synchronised stage harmony which accompanied many of the monologues added a whole new dimension; it was perfect choreographed and almost flawlessly executed. My only real criticism is arguably rather subjective in nature: I would say tone down all the shouting: my experience in viewing and writing plays is that yelling moments of great emotion do not add to the convincing power of the piece, but break the spell rather jarringly and, although jarring is sometimes what one's after, the enthralling nature of the deeply cathartic comedy, nostalgia, tragedy and madness of the script deserves to be sunk into, not jolted away from.

A word must go to the script: it is an absolute delight, and I'm glad it's been brought to the Cambridge stage in such a worthy style. The scattering of witty lines and physical comedy did not disappoint: for all its disturbing and moving moments the performance was incredibly funny. There were also several of those beautifully complex moments, where one is not sure to laugh, cry, or be disgusted. The symbolic moments of the piece were fleeting and sporadic, not really allowing them to sink in. While this arguably touches upon sublimity, I would have preferred these moments to be a touch more lingering, to allow the audience to fully appreciate and take note.

The pace is variable, but the energy of the performance does not ebb: even in the slower moments, the cast's consistency and confidence pull it through: it was a pleasure to see a cast which works so well together, and was certainly greater than the sum of its parts; a sure sign of some rather canny direction. This, combined with an unflappable script, and more than a few surprises, creates a touching, humorous, disturbing performance, brushing the spiritual, the political and the familial in a gritty, but rather abstracted style, keeping connected to hardened realism while also rising into the realms of the semiotic: the result is something personal and expansively social at the same time. It's certainly worth staying up for.

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