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Dirty Laundry review at Spode Works, Stoke-on-Trent – ‘brilliantly acted’

Rosie Abraham and Angela Bain in Dirty Laundry. Photo: Andrew Billington

Stoke-on-Trent in the early 1950s: the pot banks threw out smoke and the horizon, if you could see it, was lined with the unmistakable shapes of red brick bottle kilns. When the November smog descended, unlucky housewives or daughters who’d hung out clean washing would find it blackened. Workers in the Potteries couldn’t expect to live far beyond 50.

This is the background to Deborah McAndrew’s gripping Dirty Laundry, which sets the titular drama of domestic secrets in the specific context of a city and its filth-producing industry on the brink of the Clean Air Act, with its promise of both environmental progress and economic uncertainty.

That the play is performed in the half-derelict Spode works brings about interesting tensions, turning a post-industrial graveyard into a living space that celebrates, commemorates and reawakens civic pride in the ceramic industry and its lost communities.

The warehouse draught brings an effectively realist chill to the Moth family’s 1953 Burslem terrace, with its soot-stained wallpaper, mahogany-mounted wireless and tin bathtub. The five-strong cast are uniformly excellent, all of them delivering with aplomb the Stokie intonations at which so many actors fail. It’s a singularly elastic accent with traces of Brummie, Scouse and Manc, and for a local audience it’s a delight to hear words like “werritting” pronounced correctly.

McAndrew’s skilful writing keeps the mystery taut and the production’s only clumsy moments occur in the initial attempt at outdoors immersive theatre, resulting in much audience bewilderment and frustrated shuffling. Otherwise, it’s spot-on.

Verdict
Brilliantly-acted domestic and industrial drama that captures Stoke life in the 1950s

Production

Production
Dirty Laundry
Venue
Spode Works
City
Stoke-on-Trent
Starts
October 11, 2017
Ends
October 21, 2017
Press night
October 11, 2017
Authors
Deborah McAndrew
Composer
Paul Rogerson
Director
Conrad Nelson
Lighting
Dawn Allsopp, John Slevin
Technical
Lee Wood and Rory Evans (set construction), Melissa McCann (scenic artist)
Stage manager
Robyn Hayes (deputy stage manager), Paul Williams (technical stage manager)
Cast includes
Angela Bain, Rosie Abraham, Robin Simpspn. Philip Wright, Jason Furnival
Producer
Claybody Theatre
Running time
2hrs