Relationships and the enduring power of love are at the core of Gerry Linford’s heart-warming new comedy receiving its premiere at the Royal Court.
Linford is a late starter as a playwright – but the 56-year-old is making up for lost time with Yellow Breck Road coming hot on the heels of his debut play, The Miracle of Great Homer Street, which was staged at the Court last summer.
The creative team behind Miracle also returns for this latest tale of family dynamics. They include director Bob Eaton, and designer Olivia du Monceau whose dual set turns neatly from terraced street below a huge glowing moon to lunar landscape with the Earth as a distant backdrop.
Yes, it’s the 50th anniversary of the lunar landings this year – and at the Royal Court everyone’s gone to the Moon.
While clearly inspired by The Wizard of Oz, Linford’s sweet-and-sour tale of comatose space and time travel also owes a generous nod – and possibly a pint - to Life on Mars.
Dot Potter (Gemma Brodrick) is a mildly anxious millennial with a mobile phone addiction and a dysfunctional family which includes a foul-mouthed gran (Eithne Browne, immobilised by uncomfortable-looking arm splints), a kind-but-hapless dad (Paul Duckworth), tough love mum (Lynn Francis) and a happy-go-lucky scally uncle (Jake Abraham).
Threatened with eviction by their villainous landlord Harry (Jamie Greer, who, incidentally, has previously played the Cowardly Lion in The Wizard of Oz), things go from bad to worse when Dot gets the biggest shock of her life.
Yellow Breck Road. Photos by Activate Digital
Less the victim of a tornado than some dodgy electrics, Dot doesn’t wake up in the Technicolor land of Oz but on a glowing lunar surface where she witnesses vignettes from the past which reveal how her family’s current fate came to be and teach her a valuable lesson about love, loyalty and how there’s really no place like home.
Linford marries gentle humour, lavatorial language and some nifty one-liners with a heartfelt exploration of ambition, disappointment and human relations, an exploration that leads to a genuinely emotional denouement.
Francis and Duckworth channel their inner small children in a sweet scene of childhood innocence, while Greer revels in sociopath Harry’s various incarnations from bullying self-centred schoolboy to greed-is-good yuppie to oily property tycoon.
Eaton keeps the dramatically modest action pacing happily along, while the audience roots for the Potters to re-connect with their brains, their courage and compassion as a red-booted Dorothy searches for a way to return home.