Writer: Deborah McAndrew
Director: Conrad Nelson
Nestled deep in the old industrial heart of Stoke on Trent lies the regenerated Spode factory and inside Claybody Theatre brings their latest locally based drama Hot Lane.
Set in Burslem, Edith (Emily Pithon) returns after mysteriously fleeing the city. Alongside Ediths reasons for returning Deborah McAndrew weaves in and out of different characters and their motives to create a well-told piece of captivating domestic drama.
Angela Bain is warm and kind Frances Berry, the glue of the community. She is a fountain of knowledge and someone who has seen how the community around her ever changes. Frances is the mother figure many of the characters need.
Madeleine Gray gives a charming and depth performance as Nora. Gray brings a large level of maturity and world experience to the character while also a sense of naivety. You can’t help thinking that there are parts of Nora’s story that haven’t yet been unearthed. Alison Darling may appear stone-faced in the role of Agnes Warham, but as the play develops you really understand her purpose and that she’s not the weak figure she may want you to believe.
Nora’s loutish husband Brian (Matthew Jones) is there to represent the working man on the street who spends all day at work to support his new family, while also finding it difficult to fully focus on his wife and their soon to be born baby. Jones is very brash and not far away from some the characters, you will see walking through Stoke today.
Richard Warham (Philip Wright) is a fascinating cold figure and almost a villain. A successful businessman that wants to ensure his reputation remains, no matter what has to be done to secure that. To conclude the cast there is Andy Cryer who plays Dr James Cooper, the town doctor that’s looked up to by all but as with the other characters, has secrets to be unearthed and regrets.
The characters are what really drive this piece. Their back stories, their interactions with each other are so natural that at points it’s more like a kitchen sink drama or even a soap. That’s not a bad thing though, it makes these characters even more relatable and real.
The stage was mostly divided into two different sets and this worked well to keep the pacing of the piece but there were a couple of scene changes that could have been tightened to keep everything flowing like the clock that you overhear in the changes.
It was rather clever to see Dawn Allsopp design a set where the backdrop of red curtains lifted to unveil the Warham house. It was almost as if the stage curtain was lifted to represent how the Warhams stage their lives so the people around them can see their ‘perfect’ lives and social standing.
Hot Lane brings a range of relatable characters under one roof to examine not only social class, but also the persona we portray to others. It’s almost as if McAndrew said if walls could speak, this is the story they would tell. A gripping story filled with love, lust, friendship, class and community. There are many twists to the play that you will have to see for yourself to appreciate in the full. Claybody Theatre has once more produced a production that is a great statement that Stoke is full of fascinating people and stories that should be told.