For a production ostensibly about a major thoroughfare, The D Road is actually about stasis, and the bonds that bind us to particular people, places and ideas.
Deborah McAndrew’s new play begins in a traffic jam on the A500, the titular ‘D Road’ that links the different areas constituting Stoke-on-Trent. It opens with an apparent parody of La La Land in which Lycra-clad pensioners and middle-aged office workers step out of their cars to dance. The tone is set for a show that embraces its occasionally slight subject matter.
The action moves from the road into the neighbouring home of nervy Pam (Angela Bain) and grandson Liam (Jack Wilkinson). Local references nestle alongside inter-generational teasing as Pam decries Liam’s vegan pizza and he tries to get her to venture out to see a dentist.
Under Conrad Nelson’s direction, Bain and Wilkinson exploit the play’s humour and pathos. It isn’t long before Pam and Liam’s comfortable equilibrium is disrupted by eccentric professor, Marcus (Michael Hugo). Hugo excels in the role, adding comic mannerisms and spouting convoluted verbiage with ease, whether discussing the importance of archaeological digs or the etymology of coleslaw. Meanwhile, in a slightly underwritten role, Riana Duce plays Liam’s cynical girlfriend, Lois, who has her sights set on leaving Stoke for the bright lights of Manchester.
Staging the play at the Spode Works roots Nelson’s production in Potteries’ culture, but the open space does little to help the acoustics – which seems a shame given the entertaining nature of McAndrew’s dialogue.