Monday, 1 August 2011

London Road

Last week Ben and I went to the National to see London Road, spurred on by great reviews, both in the press and from friends as well as a fascination with how the play was constructed.

In 2006 5 women were murdered in Ipswich which lead to a large media furore and investigation. But as the culprit was found the media never told the tale of the remaining residents of London Road, the street where Steve Wright, the killer, was found and possibly lured his victims.

The play meets the residents of London Road as they hold their first AGM since the murders and they discuss rebuilding their lives and breathing new life into the now infamous area. The determination of the characters is obvious as they discuss community quizzes and garden flower shows.

Alecky Blythe, famous for writing plays such as The Girlfriend Experience and Come Out Eli uses verbatim theatre as her usual modus operandi where they actors retell real accounts from people involved in the situation - usually representing that person totally. This is a slight departure as she teamed up with Adam Cork, a composer, who took the words from the recordings to make verbatim songs. The inflection and melody of the local accent creates the tune throughout and in the few places where the recordings are played the melody is obvious. The result is a new form of verbatim theatre, not only acknowledging what the people say as being important, but also how they say it.

Both Ben and I found the music impressive for different reasons. As a musician Ben could appreciate the complexity of the music, and how the seemingly inconsequential conversations between people could become strong themes and unlikely anthems. I was impressed by the delivery, particularly as the 11 members of the cast played over 50 people between them, all with their own slight variation on the accent.

A show highlight was two young girls in a cafe explaining how you see any man on the streets and 'you automatically think it could be him'. Not only did this really capture the mood of the women involved but also created a sense of a busy, bustling community keen to move on with their lives and leave the tragedy behind them.

But, I can't say either of us were particularly impressed by the play. The heightened form of the music and the effects that has on the style of the performance didn't seem to match the scale of the happenings in the 'story'. The stories of those involved in the surrounding area seemed to pale in comparison to the events of the killings that we had all witnessed on the television and in the media in 2007. The story of the sex workers who, obviously scared and vulnerable, began to change their lives around as a result was incredibly powerful and very moving, but did seem to be overshadowed in the production by the lives of others on the street.

This is a definite must see, if only because this will be the first time you've seen anything quite like it. I'm going to look out for more work by Adam Cork, he's obviously an incredibly talented composer and I look forward to seeing what else he can do.