Theatre Review: Yellow Breck Road, Royal Court Theatre, Liverpool

Image Source: Royal Court Theatre

Format: Play
Genre: Comedy Drama
Date: February 6 2019
Location: Royal Court Theatre, Liverpool

Yellow Breck Road brings a very local, relatable plot to the stage, with tie-ins to a classic movie.

The opening scene in a typical living room introduced us to the Nan, Nora (Eithne Browne), wrapped in plaster and thus unable to do anything for herself, in particular going to the toilet. Meanwhile, her granddaughter Dot (Gemma Brodrick), who has to look after her nan with the likes of trips to the loo, is constantly on her phone, taking selfies and practicing her RBF, or Resting Bitch Face! We’re told that she has low-level anxiety disorder which stops her going anywhere, though she is in a support group that is planning to Ibiza, though she still has reluctance.

In the meantime, her mum Carol (Lynn Francis) and dad Billy (Paul Duckworth) are struggling along in life, when Carol “accidentally” books a cheap break for them in Benidorm; unfortunately, it clashes with Dot’s planned trip to Ibiza, meaning that she has to stay behind and look after her Nan. Uncle Barry (Jake Abraham), a well-intentioned yet clumsy kind of bloke, turns up from the kitchen after “fixing the toaster” which wasn’t really broke. He’s hopeless at all DIU, but he seems to believe that he can complete these jobs, all while wearing a NASA jacket.

We learn that Barry was thrown out by his partner, hence him living with the in-laws, and apparently his previous electric job led to him accidentally burning down the house! Soon, they are visited by the unpleasant Harry (Jamie Greer), the landlord, who has known them since they were kids, yet willingly (almost cheeringly) informs the family that he’s planning to evict them within 28 days, as he’s going off to live in Spain.

Harry is always bragging to Carol and Billy about how well he has done in life, in comparison to Billy’s perceived lack of achievements. Nan had always wanted Carol to marry Harry for financial reasons and is always moaning about Billy, especially after this news. Everybody’s holidays are called off and everyone heads to bed, except Dot and Barry. Dot then goes to turn on the lamp, and gets a huge electric shock. Prior to this, the characters note how those who have passed on were said to have gone to the Moon, which leads us onto the next part …

Dot wakes up on the Moon, and though she looks down on planet Earth, she is confused as to why Barry is also there, and that he knows who she is. She is terrified and angry at not being able to get a phone signal, though it doesn’t stop her taking selfies. Barry plans to plant flags for Liverpool and Everton, though he’s angry that someone has already planted a Tranmere Rovers flag. We soon get re-introduced to Carol, Billy, Harry and Nan, but in a different form: with the exception of Nora, everybody is a child, and we’re clearly revisiting past memories of how their current situation came to be. This was probably the funniest scene, especially with the over-enthusiastic Carol wanting to play games.

A still-confused Dot tries to question Barry (who we soon realise is playing Billy’s late father at this point), but the story moves forward to show the aftermath of a one night stand between Carol and Harry, which results in Carol becoming pregnant. Harry wants nothing to do with the baby, so much so that he even requests that she has an abortion, which Carol refuses. She confides in Billy, who despite his hard-luck nature has always had feelings for her and vice versa, and Billy promises to look after Carol and the baby-to-be. Dot is horrified at this discovery, more so when Harry refuses to help Billy financially prior to this. Nora is disgusted at Carol preferring Billy over Harry, which becomes worse when the couple move in together, only for Harry to buy the house and leave them in a no-win situation. Harry has always tried to demonstrate his wealth and power, impacting the family as much as anybody else.

This only makes Dot more proud of Billy, though, and thoroughly appalled at Harry, before we return to the present day, and Dot returning home from hospital with Billy to be greeted by an overjoyed Carol and a less enthusiastic Nora. Uncle Billy comes by, and Dot is delighted to see him too; her personality is so much stronger due to her experience. But Harry drops by and notes that the house has been bought, meaning they have to be out by Friday. Dot stands up for the group and admonishes Harry, but he is standing his ground, at least until it’s revealed that it’s actually Nan who has bought the house, meaning that they can stay put. The fallout leads to Billy punching Harry and sending him on his way, all to show her gratitude to Billy, giving us a happy ending.

Everybody is convincing in their roles, and Dot is likeable and believable as the modern young girl who may not possess the greatest awareness of life and its challenges, but makes up for that with true love and care for her family. The comedy is mostly on-par, with Nan’s one-liners, the local references, the childhood scenes and the tales of humorous past problems being the highlights. There is definite drama and emotion, especially when Dot’s true father is revealed and when Nan comes to the rescue, though it risked making this a hard show to define; it is a mix of heavy comedy and heavy drama, but opting for one direction over the other might have made for a more structured tale. In addition, though Dot (short for Dorothy) is wearing the red shoes made famous by The Wizard Of Oz, this doesn’t lead to her returning home, and the tie-ins to the movie could have been expanded on more. One can see what the intention was, but it doesn’t completely come to fruition.

Nevertheless, Yellow Breck Road is still more than adequate and well worth seeing during its current run at Liverpool’s Royal Court Theatre. There will be many in attendance who have had to deal with similar nasty pieces of work and overcome it through adversity and perseverance, and this show will click with them the most. After all, there really is no place like home.

Overall Rating: 8/10 – Very Good