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Road by Jim Cartwright Essay Sample

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Road by Jim Cartwright Essay Sample

Notes on the plot and Subject matter of the play

Under the guidance of the Rum-Soaked, wide-boy, Scullery, the audience is taken on an evening tour of a scruffy, depressed road in a small Lancashire town. Moving from street corner to living room, from bedroom to kitchen, the inhabitants, young and middle aged, are presented, showing their socially and emotionally wretched lives in this sharp, sad but often funny play.

Here are people with almost no decent economic prospects living in a soon to be ghost town yet most have enough spirit to resist becoming ghosts themselves. Even the young couple who plan to starve themselves, unable to visualise a future, make their decision with relish, executing a tender dance of death before the fats begins.

By the time we follow two women and a pair of brothers to a compulsive drinks-fest in the shell of an abandoned house, the audience desperately want to believe in the possibility of survival.

The main subject matter is about repressed dreams and a desire to escape. However, the economic obstacle is too high a mountain to climb for the people on Road.

Theatrical devices and conventions used in the production

1)The Set was like a roundabout that the actors had to push around so that the audience could see a new set. The actors pushed the set around using brash metal rods that looked sinister which fitted in well to themes of the play. Also, the fact that the set didn’t automatically turn reflects the economic situation that the characters are in.

2)At the beginning of the play, just after the scene with Brink and Scullery, when they push the set around it looked as if they were really having to work hard to turn it. Their bodies were hunched over the bars and their legs outstretched with their feet gripping at the floor. This represented the characters lives, that they always have to strive to carry on with their poverty stricken lives and that they work so hard to turn their lives around and go in a new direction, but deep down they know it will never happen.

3)Another convention that they used was how, when the actors went inside the set (the last scene) where they were hidden from the ‘voyeurs’, a CCTV camera inside projected images on to the actual set could still see what they were doing. This served the play in 2 ways:- Firstly to give the play a reality TV feel in which the actors were the people in the show representing the fact that in a modern society we are always being watched by hidden security cameras that we don’t know are there. Secondly, the fact that the images were projected in dull greys, white’s and black’s with no colour served to give the atmosphere a grave feel.

4)During the interval the actors, in role, came and mingled with the audience and a live disco was playing. This worked excellently because you felt as if you were part of the characters lives and also learnt how the characters interacted with the public not just each other. Their loud, raucous behaviour was saddening because you suddenly began to realise that this was all they had to their lives and it showed the massively different margins of acceptability, behaviour wise, as you cross the boundaries of class.

Notes on the overall impression of the Production. What was the director trying to convey

1}Throughout the play, every prop used, every sound made, every lighting decision conveyed the inelegant lifestyles of the characters.

2}The music used was very much more rhythmic than melodic. The repeated rhythm signified the repetitiveness of their monotonous insignificant existence.

3}The fact that the actors came to mingle with the audience in the interval was to indicate that however much people don’t like to think that there are such indigent societies, there are, and people need to do something about it.

4}The costumes appeared very cheap, in the case of Carol and Louise, fairly garish too.

5}To make the play relevant to a young audience who did not live through Thatcher’s Britain, Posh ‘n’ Becks and Pop Idol were mentioned. However, I felt this was slightly patronising as it was as though the directors believed that we wouldn’t be capable of putting the play into context ourselves.

6}The set worked well as it appeared very cold and desolate as it was all brown and grey.

Notes and Sketches on the Design Elements and how they worked in the Production

–>The set was circular and it turned like a roundabout.

–>It was all integrated so that pulling something out of the wall, like an ironing board, could easily change 1 of the rooms into another.

–>The set gave the audience the sense of people living above shops in low-rise apartments and had the ability to reveal and pull out of the set, pieces of furniture to suggest where the characters were.

–>There were DVD images from the town where the play was being performed, Salisbury. It had an inner city/multicultural feel and was not specifically set in a far away town that had no relevance for where the audience see it. This helped the audience to suspend their disbelief because they were able to relate the play to places they know (Stanislavski).

–>At various points in the play, lights were shone at the audience. This was to make the voyeurs feel like they were themselves being watched. This is the same for the images of the audience which were projected onto the set.

–>Also the lights on the audience are so to make you feel included in the drama.

–>The set was able to accommodate 18 different locations as it was a composite set.

–>As the set moved around it felt like we were moving down the road.

–>When the projections were on the buildings it created atmosphere.

–>The music at the beginning of the play set the scene and gave the audience anticipation of what was to come because it had a raucous, depressing, slightly disturbing feel.

Research Notes into the Social, Cultural and/or Historical Background of the play.

The play was written in 1986. In the early 1980’s Britain was in the grip of recession. Miners clashed with police in strikes against pit closures, riots broke out in several cities, stock markets suffered one of the biggest collapses in history and Britain dispatched a task force to recapture the Falkland Islands.

Margaret Thatcher

=The longest continuously serving prime minister since 1827.

=Her conservative politics led to the implementation of radical conservative politics such as the poll tax.

=The Falklands was fought during her tenure.

=During her time as PM, unemployment rose to 3 million and her government continued to attempt to lower taxation and public spending, curb trade union power and follow a policy of privatisation.

Miners Strikes 1984/85

=This was a fight for a number of basic rights; The right to work, the right to live in a community of one’s choice, the right for a future for oneself and one’s children. The miners knew that when a works closes down, so too does the community.

=Jean Heaton, a miners wife said, ‘Now I am 32 I suppose I’m just a housewife still to look at me from the outside. But inside I’m a very angry person, and I shall stay angry until we’ve got rid of this rotten government and the rotten system it makes us live under.’

Falkland Islands

=A British crown colony (Since 1892) in the South Atlantic Ocean.

=From 1764 France, Spain, Britain and Argentina founded settlements and laid claims to the Islands

=Following the Argentine invasion of the Island in April, Britain quickly sent a task force to protect the 1,200 inhabitants.

=The Islands were recaptured in June when the Argentine force surrendered, after fighting in which more than 1,000 lives were lost.

Community Charge

=This was the poll tax that replaced domestic taxes as the local tax and was introduced in Britain in 1990.

=It was to be paid by all adults at a fixed rate; the tax was exceptionally unpopular and there were unusually high levels of unemployment.

=It was associated with Margaret Thatcher’s administration


=The sale or transfer of public or state-owned assets or services to the private sector. The policy was adopted by Thatcher’s government in the 1980’s.

=The aim was to reduce government spending and to try to create greater efficiency by freeing market forces from government intervention.

=Privatisation led to the Miner’s Strikes and caused people to lose their jobs, have stricter working hours and smaller pay packets.

=The unions lost a lot of their power.

Notes on Influences apparent in the Production. How were they used? Did they work?

The high unemployment rate in the 80’s was a major influence in the production. Many of the characters were unemployed and their main activities were going to pubs or just watching the TV. This worked very well as it gave a depressing feeling to the play. To see the characters slumped figures gave the impression of lost hopes. It was easy to imagine that these people have a very low work ethic as they appear to have such a low view on life, a common quote at the beginning, ‘Fucking long life innit.’

There is a soldier in the play which can be related to the Falklands War. He is very drunk and is probably on leave. The fact that he is so drunk conveys that he is perhaps trying to forget all the atrocities he has seen in the war.

What was the Production saying about Society/ culture/History? How relevant was the production to contemporary society/culture?

=The production conveyed the large gap between rich and poor in society.

=It was illustrating the fact that people don’t want to think that there are societies like the one in the play but in reality there is and they are just as bad as the one in road.

=It seems to be of a political nature, I think its aims were to convince its audience, both inside and outside the theatre, that the values of status quo should be changed into the progressive leftist values in order to achieve social justice and a redistribution of power.

=Also I feel that the play was trying to show how much inequality there is in Britain.

=And, fundamentally, the limitations of Thatcherite Britain. For instance, privatisation and high unemployment rates.

The Play is still relevant to a contemporary society for a number of reasons:-

1) The gap between rich and poor is ever widening.

2) There are still areas of High unemployment in Blairite Britain but the industry which is declining now is the textile an manufacturing industry rather than the mining industry.

3)It is the 20th year anniversary of the Falklands War – 2002

4)Both Thatcher and Blair are pro privatisation and keen on low public spending.

=>However, a few inserted references to Pop Idol and Posh ‘n’ Becks aside a piece that once traded in up to the minute documentary realism seems to be lagging behind events.

It is noticeable that the real social problems to have erupted in Jim Cartwrights Oldham heartland over the past few years- the racial tension between white and Asian communities-is never mentioned.

Details of some of the notable Performances in the Production

Jerry: Older man presents a monologue in a naturalistic style.

The lights rise on an old man polishing his shoes. He is obviously finding it very difficult to bend over and his hands are now moving very slowly over his shoes. However, the way he lets his breath out in short bursts conveys how much effort he’s putting into trying to do this.

This immediately gives the impression of a person who is very concerned about looking smart , but when he sits up you notice how tattered and old his clothes are which makes the atmosphere very depressing.

After laying his shoes down he immediately starts ironing his tie and begins his monologue. This again appears a struggle for him and he is gripping the board quite hard as if it is holding him up. The fact that he apparently quite obsessed with neatness demonstrates how he is still living in his memory. From his monologue we learn that he was once in the army and this is could be where he learnt to be so precise, however the moving point is that he is no longer in the army himself but he still lives in it mentally.

We are given clues in his speech as to why he lives in the past, ‘I can’t see how time could turn into this time.’ And the fact that his gaze always seems to be very distant illustrates that he can’t face his present poverty and so has to live in his past as they are good memories.

His speech starts off calmly but his voice becomes quieter and more solemn and clearly more distressed as he reminisces more. The pauses (in which he breathes very deeply as if to stop himself from crying) also become longer and more frequent as his memories are becoming clearer and more upsetting to him.

All his actions are very slow which is a contrast from what he describes about his memories about ‘dancing’ and ‘National Service’ and ‘sex’ and this makes this scene very poignant as it is very clear how much his life has changed from when he had all his ‘friends’ around him to now, when he is all by himself.

This particular scene is surrounded by scenes where the youths of Road are clearly having a good time and talking about what they will do when the leave this Road. However, the hope that is built up in theses scenes for the youths is immediately crushed when Jerry expresses how futile their lives are. This makes it even more poignant because you suddenly realise that those youths will never be able to ‘escape’ the trap of road. This juxtaposition of the scenes heightens the pathos by the clear contrast of lives.

Another point that makes this even more saddening is how Jerry is trying desperately to hold on to his dignity by always holding his head up but by the end of the scene all his dignity has vanished as he is sat slumped in his chair with his head down and tears rolling down his cheeks.

Molly: very similar to Jerry – both reminiscing but Molly speech is a bit more up beat and she does not appear to be as sad as Jerry. It is obvious that she has Alzheimer’s. She is very shaky showing her age and her rhymes are very simple which gives it a sad tone. She does reminisce like Jerry but in a more cheerful way but when you realise that she has Alzheimer’s her cheerful reminisces are seen through. Jerry is talking to the audience but she is talking to herself.

Red lipstick and make up. And finds herself very amusing but then turns sad very quickly. Erratic emotions. More poignant.

She does a dance which reminds herself of her dancing days.

Her posture is very awkward and all hunched up showing her age.

Skin Lad

Moves with the rhythm.

Even though the pace of this speech is evidently a lot faster than the other Molly and jerry it is still about how lonely he is, ‘And I’m the lonely skinhead again.’ – he can’t stay still he is wandering up an down the stage. Swearing shows context of where he is.

Showing when people have nothing to do in their lives they turn to violence.

Clare dies her last breaths are very audible and when she dies a bit of hope for the characters also die inside the audience. Got closer as scene goes on.

Vocal – Lots of Pauses – helped me to understand mood and communicated feeling to me.

Physical – The actors closeness and distance within the space to indicate mood and tensions created.

-The moments of stillness served as an effective contrast and gave the feeling of nostalgia.

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