THE LONG ROAD
The Crescent Theatre, Sunday 10th May, 2015
A young man is murdered in a senseless assault outside a shop. The murderer is a young girl off her head on drugs. This is the event that triggers what follows in Shelagh Stephenson’s powerful piece about grief and coming to terms with sudden and inexplicable tragedy.
Director Jaz Davison stages the murder before curtain up, in the theatre bar. It’s a shocking outburst but we, the audience, don’t know how to react. We shuffle off to the studio space to take our seats.
When the play begins properly, we meet the dead boy’s family: his parents and his older brother Joe. Through a series of monologues they tell their sides. What comes across is honesty – Stephenson’s writing is top notch.
Professionally dispassionate Elizabeth (Danielle Spittle) is brought in by mum Mary to try to help make sense of the senseless. Spittle is quite a contrast to the raw emotional truth of the others, and necessarily so, so it takes longer to appreciate her performance. The others are immediately gripping: Harry Clarke as the surviving son is intense; Roger Saunders as John, the dad, is utterly credible, first escaping into running and later into the bottle. But it is Joanne Hill as Mary who is utterly heart-breaking as she goes through a range of reactions in her bid to come to terms with this most terrible event.
Grace Hussey-Burd is also excellent as the damaged, twitchy Emma, the killer, unable or unwilling to articulate her motives, displacing her aggression in rants about confectionery and, of all things, olives.
Throughout the play, dead boy Dan is a constant, wordless presence, watching and waiting for his family to be able to let him go – Liam Cobb gives a haunting performance indeed!
Elizabeth works to bring Mary and Emma together – it is by no means plain sailing or what a meeting between murderer and victim’s mother might achieve, and this is what makes the drama so gripping. Stephenson’s writing is scalpel-sharp and bitterly humorous, and served extremely well by this engrossing and emotionally truthful production. Another high quality and thought-provoking piece from the Crescent.