It’s the first week back into term and IMPACT Arts spoke to Ben Williamson about the NNT show, Road.
Give us a brief summary of Road
Road is not really a show with a plot, which I think it is really exciting. It is creating a picture of North England in 1986, near Manchester, in an unnamed town. It explores the lives of people in this town which have been ripped apart by the Thatcher government. The play explores a night in one street with the first half being people ready to go out and the second half them all coming back after god knows what! It’s got a bit of everything. It’s incredibly funny and, at times, very moving and dark. It’s a really fun show.
What made you choose to put on Road?
It’s a hard one to do because it’s a show which requires 226 props and multiple sets. You need lots of different spaces, lots of props, and there are about 30 characters in the show but it’s usually played by seven actors who multi-role. I considered several plays, like Shakespeare, but I thought, actually, I want to do something fun, something challenging. I love doing wacky sets and I thought we could do something quite cool with this. It’s a play I’ve always loved and really enjoyed reading. Jim Cartwright is a fantastic writer and I wanted to do something really big and different, especially with the staging.
You mentioned you enjoy experimenting with sets. Did this create any problems?
The plan with the set was to make two rows/frames of tersest houses on either side. Then I wanted the audience to be the centre of the street where a lot of the action actually takes place. I want to completely break the fourth wall. We have some seating but it’s a lot of standing and moving around and it was a challenge fitting everything in. You need lots of set pieces, different levels, windows up top, and all of the individual different rooms. So it was tight trying to fit things in but I think we have something which looks really different. It really transforms the space. We have some really nice set pieces which I don’t think we would have been able to do if we hadn’t had the Easter holiday. I won’t spoil it but there are some really cool moments, the lights, the tech, the set, it’s all been a challenge to put together but it’s really exciting doing it that way.
Effectively portraying 30 characters with only seven actors involves a lot of multi-rolling. Was this a challenge?
Six of the actors are portraying around five characters each. It’s set in the North of England so you have to worry about the accents. Then it’s defining each of those people. I’ve cast six people from the south and one Northerner so accents have been tricky, in trying to create variety as well. You don’t want everyone to sound the same. A lot of it is physicality and we tried to split ages and to zone in on these different people. We have lots of wonderful costumes, raided charity shops for some hideous, really colourful clothes. It’s important in multi-rolling that you make it as clear as possible for the audience, highlighting where people are coming from. I hope that we’ve made it clear when people are changing and we’ve given all of the actors a range of characters they’re playing. The seventh actor is always playing one character, Scullery, the lead and tour guide for the audience.
Describe the performance in three words
Immersive, explosive and entertaining.
Road is running at the Nottingham New Theatre from 29th April to 2nd May