WIGAN Little Theatre is boldly pushing back the boundaries with the first play of its new season.
Road by Jim Cartwright is a 20th century classic and garnered a hatful of awards after productions featuring some of Britain’s brightest drama stars.
It also features very strong language and scenes with adult content which director Chris Norris acknowledges may not be everyone’s cup of tea.
But today he staunchly defended its inclusion in the WLT line-up, saying that the uncompromising prose is just as poetic as Dylan Thomas’s and that the theatre should cater for a wide range of tastes.
He adds that it should be popular with students of drama as Farnworth-born Cartwright figures significantly on the A-level drama syllabus.
The audience is invited to follow Scullery (Brendan Delaney) as he acts as tour-guide around a scruffy, depressed northern backstreet.
The inhabitants show glimpses of their socially and emotionally wretched lives. Although sad and angry in nature, this play is also very sharp and funny.
Playing several roles each, the rest of the cast are Erinna Delaney, Andrew Blake, Lesley Kellett, Iain Cash, Amy Fisher, Steve Unsworth, Joyce Hope, Martin Gaskell and Linda DonBavand.
The play was written in the mid-1980s, premiered at Bolton Octagon and is a scathing critique of Thatcher’s Britain and the north-south divide, although Mr Norris says he is not playing so much in this production on the politics as the rich and kaleidoscopic characters plus the comedy.
He said: “This is a play about people’s spirit and the will to survive no matter what. Different characters have different survival mechanisms.
“One escapes through nostalgia, another through the bottle and another particularly violent character has a road to Damascus moment when he sees a Buddha.
“Jim Cartwright’s language is absolutely uncompromising. It has got all the four-letter words and they are used repeatedly.
“But the beauty of it is that this gutter language is mixed with northern idioms that will be recognised by Wigan people and treated in a Dylan Thomas poetic way.
“Some people will be shocked by the language but there is no way that the theatre nor I would want to deliberately shock people just for the sake of offending them.
“In my opinion the language is not gratuitous. It’s like watching Shameless - you don’t notice the effing and jeffing in the end.”
This is not the first time WLT has hit the headlines over controversial choices of repertoire. There have been plays with strong language featured in seasons before and in the late 1980s Peter Shaffer’s Equus was to have seen the lead actors strip naked for one scene. But after a nude dress rehearsal producers thought better of it and the actors kept their underwear on for the performances (much to the dismay of some in the audience!)
Mr Norris said he was sure that some WLT regulars will not attend Road, but the play may attract other audience members who do not usually go. And he added that there was plenty else in the forthcoming season to satisfy all loyal followers of the company.
Road runs from Wednesday, September 7 to Saturday, September 17 (excluding Sunday).
The box office will re-open on Tuesday, August 30 and can be contacted weekday nights between 7pm and 9pm (excluding Sundays and Bank Holidays). Patrons can book for any of the season’s shows at any time, excluding the pantomime which goes on sale on Monday, October 10. For bookings, visit www.wiganlittletheatre.co.uk.