Reviewed by Catherine Joyce
Last night we had an interesting night watching a new play called Lancastrians, by Junction 8 Theatre in association with The Dukes. It is currently half way through a tour around Lancashire and is showing at The Dukes until the 4th May. It then moves to Stanley Park Visitor Centre, Blackpool from the 6th to the 8th May before finishing at The Artz Centre, Skelmersdale from the 9th to 11th May.
Keeping with the Lancashire theme all the venues are doing a “Meal Deal” where you can purchase traditional Lancashire food before the performance. The Dukes have a tasty selection of Lancashire treats costing only £7 for a main course and a pudding. You can choose from Butter Pie, Cheese and Onion Pasty, Bury Black Pudding sausage roll or a meat or vegan hot pot. The three puddings available are Parkin, Manchester Tart or May Rhubarb Crumble cake which all sound really delicious.
Lancastrians is a play created using the real words of 500 people who were interviewed about living in Lancashire. The three cast members use these words to tell the story of life in Lancashire and we find out what real people think and feel about the towns that they live in. We weren’t really sure what to expect when we read about the play but having lived in Lancashire all our lives we thought it sounded quite interesting and it would be a nice change to see something a bit different.
Starting in Mrs Johnson’s Emporium, a knitting shop in Blackpool, and moving all around the county we hear people’s views on life, their ambitions and prejudices as well as their hopes and dreams for the future. Mrs Johnson has a knitting group where the members knit whilst putting the world to rights and the actors played the part of this group cleverly switching between people and speaking the words of the interviewed Lancastrians. I thought this was very well done and I really could hear people I know in the words and dialect they used.
Early on in the performance Matthew Durkan raced around the theatre roughly pointing out the location of towns in Lancashire and highlighting the parts of old Lancashire like Warrington, Southport, Wigan and Bolton that once were part of Lancashire but are no longer. He was full of energy and it was quite entertaining to watch him racing around the stage avoiding the stools!
Roberta Kerr was fantastic; she portrayed the different Lancastrians so well and I especially liked her telling the tale of the lady from Euxton whose Mum had real community spirit.
The stage area was adorned with multicoloured wool and large balls of wool were used by the cast throughout the night to add visual interest to the show. Subtle sound effects were used throughout to set the locations of the various scenes, from the noise of a bingo club to the sound of a busy market helping to give atmosphere to the show.
Unusually for a theatre production the audience were all sat in the stage area on stools and the actors walking around us whilst telling their stories. Whilst unusual this did work very well for the play which is definitely suited to a smaller place and would be lost in a larger venue.
There were lots of stories that we loved, it was very touching to hear the views of an asylum seeker who thought the people of Lancaster were amazing and the stories of Blackpool when it was in it’s heyday.
Lancastrians is quite a unique show and for people from Lancashire it is definitely worth seeing. It is only a short play but has plenty of comedy and as we say in Lancashire is a reet good night out!
Tickets cost £13 (booking fees may apply).
Lancastrians is at The Dukes in Lancaster from 1-4 May 2019, for more information or to book tickets visit www.dukes-lancaster.org or call the box office on 01524 598500.
The Dukes, Moor Lane, Lancaster, Lancashire, LA1 1QE | 01524 598500