It’s over thirty years since Scullery and his shopping trolley burst onto the Royal Court’s smaller upstairs space in 1986 in an award-winning promenade production of Jim Cartwright’s first play, an angry, bleakly humorous and deeply felt portrayal of a drunken night on the town in a deprived working class area of Lancashire.
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child director John Tiffany has chosen a more conventional approach – instead of the audience following the characters from house to house along the street, a Perspex box rises intermittently from the main stage within which we see Mark Hadfield’s sad, dapper old-timer remembering how things used to be and Michelle Fairley’s tarty older woman desperately trying to seduce an almost comatose soldier who spews all over his takeaway. Like most of the cast in this ensemble piece, they play more than one character – Fairley, this time in dingy grey, tries to cadge money from her daughter to buy more booze, and Hadfield is hilarious drunkenly displaying his best country and western moves. Meanwhile Scullery dances to the music of Swan Lake, the tightly gripped supermarket trolley his swooping partner.
The younger generation are also out on the lash – looking for temporary escape from boring lives without a future in Maggie Thatcher’s Britain. Two men in suits share their technique for finding temporary oblivion with their sceptical pick-ups – ritually downing red wine before turning up the volume of Otis Redding’s Try A Little Tenderness. But Shane Zaza’s Joey has given up all hope, taken to his bed and, joined by girlfriend Clare, embarked on a hunger-strike that will end in tragedy.
On an almost bare stage, Tiffany keeps it all very much in period – shoulder pads and all – but, three decades on, the impoverished lives of this unnamed Road still resonate.
Royal Court Theatre, Sloane Square, SW1W 8AS
Tube: Sloane Square
Until 9th September 2017
£12.00 – £45.00