by Kenneth Emson music and lyrics by Simon Egerton.
Tour to 18 May 2013.
Runs 2hr 20min One interval.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 1 May at The Junction Cambridge.
Social facts and human dreams interweave.
Eastern Angles opened Kenneth Emson’s play in the place it’s all about, where details and significances would be picked-up which diminish in audience awareness further from home.
Yet, interweaving the story of a London family economically squeezed to a new life somewhere in “the North” with Peterborough’s development since 1945, Emson presents a fascinating aspect of English history, and political manoeuvring, which saw a new town arise incrementally, before development fizzled-out under new national priorities.
His story of a new town with a past, including a cathedral as physical inspiration in the Devlin family’s tough times, can be a bumpy ride as political and cultural references zigzag back and forth. But it captures the heart of people’s hopes, without explaining how they have degenerated into the place’s more recent difficulties.
A new approach to domestic heating, the promise of the nation’s largest Sainsbury, the excitement of a shopping mall and the freedom suggested by the main roads – the first time the American ‘Parkway’ was used over here – are practical things that drew thousands of people to the east Midlands.
Though it could be harder-hitting at points, Parkway Dreams explains its homeland in historical context. It uses a lot of long-accustomed political theatre shorthand: humour, caricature contrasted by fully-felt characters and information delivered swiftly before it becomes tedious. Songs lighten the mood, emphasise points and aid transitions.
It can also be simplistic in the manner of political theatre a generation back, but it’s audience-friendly and acted with skill and warmth in Ivan Cutting’s production, where actors weave between pivoting table tops that become a projection-screen, car or drawing-board, while designer Charlie Cridlan creates an apt environment with architects’ plans and a roadway forming the stage environment.
It even has a flawed hero in Peterborough Development Corporation head Wyndham Thomas – his flaw being to leave when the Corporation’s demise was pronounced. Laura Corbett’s Christine and Polly Nayler’s Mary ensure a focus on a town as a place for human hopes, while Robert Jackson’s Peter (though lumbered with a strange view of irony) encourages interest and attention in this story of his life.
Janice/Ebenezer Howard/Secretaries/Housing Officers/Thatcher/The Dame/Christine: Laura Corbett.
Peter/Tom Hancock/Planning Officers/Game Show Hosts/Sadie: Robert Jackson.
Mary/Town Clerks/Press/Housing Hostess: Polly Nayler.
Jack/Leader of the Council/Actor: Matt Ray-Brown.
Politicians/Marketing Managers/Musician: Barnaby Southgate.
Churchill/Wyndham Thomas/Architects/TV Figures/Musician: Harry Waller.
Director: Ivan Cutting.
Designer: Charlie Cridlan.
Lighting: Steve Cooney.
Audio/Visual: Jon Tavener.
Movement: Michael Cross.
Assistant director: Nicola Pollard.