May the Road Rise Up – Lyric Theatre – Review by Cathy Brown
Until Feb 24th
May the Road Rise Up is a new play from Rosemary Jenkinson and c21 Theatre Company, exploring the timely issue of homelessness. Mia is a 28 year old delivery driver with some debt, a lazy boyfriend and a positive outlook, but a series of incidents occur that will change her life immeasurably and test her positivity to its limit.
Rosemary Jenkinson’s lively, punchy script barrels along, following the ever cheerful Mia through the streets of Belfast as she delivers shopping for Tesco and on into party houses late in the night, where she finds her release with her good mate Paddy.
Jenkinson subtly shows how a series of unfortunate events can result in someone living on the streets. First Mia’s sponging boyfriend leaves, then she hurts her back and can’t work. Suddenly her job and her house are gone. The support of friends can only go so far and prescription drugs are draining her of the urge to fight.
While the party scenes are sometimes overdone, the script excels when dramatizing the petty bureaucracy involved in the claims system – where your back pain might not be painful enough and your lack of children can stop you from getting a council house. The labyrinthine language of these systems might be played for laughs, but a serious point is being made about the human beings who are getting lost in it.
The scenes set in a homeless hostel are also effective in highlighting how these centres aren’t always the easy answer that we might think they are and how the streets themselves can often seem like a safer option.
The success of any one-woman show will rest on the strength of the performer and Christine Clare deftly captures Mia’s journey from carefree party girl to faceless rough sleeper. She is particularly good in the quieter, more raw moments which contrast effectively with the earlier party scenes and she skilfully depicts a range of other characters – from an American tourist in the back of Mia’s taxi to her supercilious claims assessor. Stephen Kelly’s direction is well-paced and side steps any heavy handed posturing. Great use is made of Sinead O’Donnell Casey’s set which consists of just cardboard boxes and some clever and often humorous back projection, allowing the production to open up Mia’s world and put her problems into a wider context.
Following on from her play Lives in Translation about the asylum system and her series of satirical rapid response plays with Accidental Theatre, Rosemary Jenkinson is fast becoming a strong political voice in Northern Irish theatre without sacrificing any entertainment value. May the Road Rise Up is a timely and enjoyable show that is now on tour throughout Northern Ireland.
Cast – Christine Clare
Written by Rosemary Jenkinson
Directed by Stephen Kelly
Produced by Tom Finlay
20 – 24 Feb