The Road To Wigan Pier, at ALRA, Wigan, March 11th 2017

As part of its weekend in Wigan to commemorate the publication of The Road to Wigan Pier in 1937, the Orwell Society and the public were treated on Saturday evening to an excellent and illuminating adaption by students at ALRA North of chapter one of the book: George Orwell’s life after he took lodgings in “the tripe shop”.

ALRA 1The approach of the students to the work was simple, yet highly original and totally effective; with four elements to the production:

visual images of the condition of Wigan housing in the 1930s,

the exact narrative of the book,

the very effective use of movement and voice from the actors focussing on the characters in the Darlington Street tripe shop, and the streets around,

and a use of props to add a little humour, as Orwell actually did.

The original text was used for the production, rather than an adapted script, so the audience were able to feel the full force of Orwell’s objective and emphatic language which was complemented by the images and movement.ALRA 2

We were able to get a full picture of the condition of Wigan’s housing and work in the 1930s.

The cast’s approach to the play was impressive in terms of well-polished professionalism, very appropriate application of voice, and even facial expression. “Very well acted” is the term I would use.

ALRA 3Some things stood out in this production:

the continuous activity of the household (which meant continuous labour for the women);

brilliant use of props which changed their function in an instant (in the discovery of the full chamber pot, for example);

and, contrarily, in the absence of props. The scene which closes the play – Orwell’s view from a train of a woman clearing a drainpipe – which featured Orwell on a train, the woman, but no pipe – was a brilliant use of “less is more” and a fine but horrifying point on which to end.

This was a real treat for Orwell aficionados, and anyone just generally interested in Wigan’s social history. We hope that this work can be developed further and that we will see it again.

Thank you, ALRA, and Jane Vicary who oversaw this project.

David Craik, the Orwell Society


The Cast

ALRA 4The cast, with Quentin Kopp left; Richard Blair seated centre; Jane Vickery seated on RB’s left

George Orwell:

Jamie-Ash Townsend

Ensemble:

Zoey Barnes

Victoria Burrows

Beth Nolan

Alexi Papadopoulos

Patrick Price

Daisy Roberts

Sophie Ward

Supported and directed by Jane Vicary (Head of Voice) and Michael White (Head of Movement)

Tech and Front of House: Kimberley Night, Jamie Trotter and Sorcha McCaffrey

 

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