The Road to the Sea
Orange Tree, Richmond
Don Taylor wrote The Road to the Sea with the evident intention of comparing the idealism with which the twentieth century was viewed at its start with the position 100 years later. The main theory is that the idealists like the main protagonist, Jay (played by Ian Cullen), when faced with a major moral dilemma, may not have the backbone to make the right choice and global disaster will follow.
Jay is a shambling old man who harbours a terrible secret that could have come straight out of Shaw's Major Barbara. While 1968 was a year of hope and vibrancy for him, the attractions of global commerce masquerading as Communism sucked in even the most radical.
At the start of the play, Jo, his daughter, well acted by Helen Grace, whom he deserted when she was four finally tracks him down looking for "justice".
This is the start of a period of even greater introspection for Jay, who loves using parables to reflect on his life. It is also a journey of discovery for Jo, who finds out a great deal about not only her father but also her mother who died in mysterious circumstances when Jo was nine.
The problem with The Road to the Sea is that while Don Taylor often writes poetically and can sometimes conjure up beautiful images, this philosophical musing does not work well as a play. The characters are not fully formed and merely act as ciphers to deliver the playwright's views.
Taylor has directed the play himself and it might have benefited from a more objective eye. The plotting had a tendency towards confusion that another director may have reduced with more ruthless cutting of the script. This is a shame, as the play contains important messages about failed idealism and the threat of globalisation. It doesn't help that the actors seemed under-rehearsed, at least at the start of the run.
Ultimately, the conclusion is that while this may work on the page with interesting philosophical ideas presented, it lacks the dramatic flow and personal interaction needed for a successful stage production.
Reviewer: Philip Fisher