The dramatic narrative behind this new play reflects the philosophy of “Song of the Open Road” by Walt Whitman:
“Afoot and light-hearted I take to the open road,
Healthy, free, the world before me ….
Will you come travel with me?
Shall we stick by each other as long as we live?”
He believed that taking a journey must be open to everyone, the road of life and freedom. Today, the younger generation appear to have it all – a free, multi-cultural society without prejudice to class, colour, creed, sexuality. But how much control do we really have?
The stage is set with six stools and one by one, they are taken by Charlie, Sam, Sophie, Natasha, Dan and Allie. A voice over gives out random numbers, 27, 82, 92, 98, 28, like bizarre lottery numbers. All in their early 20s, they present a mini monologue, either as if being interviewed by someone in authority, or in conversation with a friend.
Then with a fast turnaround of furniture, the set now resembles a lounge in a flat, where the six friends are gathering for a celebratory party. Bottles of wine are opened and cheese cubes on cocktail sticks passed around. With much laughter, joking, teasing, taunting, it’s like an episode of "Friends", British-style. We gradually realise there are three couples in the group, and on the surface, they are all blissfully happy in love.
With no plot spoiler here, the evening is enriched with unexpected announcements, the revelation of secrets as the wine flows even faster. Cracks in the cement of relationships begin to show. Any discussion of forward planning - a trip to India, moving in together - seem to cause conflict, each worried about their future.
The pace of the action is spot on. We are drawn into the strained, unsettled scenario due the naturalistic characterisation from tone of voice to mannerism. Allie appears rather naïve and fragile, well captured by Grace Stafford, while Eliana Ostro has a most distinctive presence, totally in the emotional mindset of Natasha, as part of an accomplished ensemble.
Reminiscent of the thematic setting in “Abigail’s Party” by Mike Leigh, (1977), “Open Road” can be seen as a contemporary comedy of manners, a dark social satire on the state of the nation, ethics and morality.
Ecce Theatre, just founded in 2015 is a young, ambitious company. This well-structured play illustrates innovative writing, directing and acting talent, blending light-hearted humour with a disturbing, futuristic drama.
2 - 28 August, (not 15), @ 13.45
Ticket prices: £7.50 - £9.50 (£5.50/£7.50)
Age guidance: 12 +