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

Yellow Breck Road
Image Source: Royal Court Theatre

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

So, Yellow Breck Road at Liverpool‘s Royal Court Theatre brings a very local, relatable plot to the stage. And it features plenty of tie-ins to The Wizard Of Oz.

Yellow Breck Road

Synopsis Of Yellow Breck Road

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.

Thrown Out

We learn that Barry was thrown out by his partner, hence him living with the in-laws. 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. This essentially cancels everybody’s holidays 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.

Moon

Dot wakes up on the Moon. Though she looks down on planet Earth, she wonders why Barry is also there. And she wonders why 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.

Promise

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 expresses disgust at Carol preferring Billy over Harry. This gets worse when the couple moves in together. But Harry buys 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.

Proud

This only makes Dot prouder of Billy, though, and Harry thoroughly appalled her. Then, we return to the present day, and Dot returning home from hospital with Billy. An overjoyed Carol and a less enthusiastic Nora greet them. Uncle Billy comes by and delights Dot too. Her personality is so much stronger due to her experience. But Harry drops by and notes the sale of the house, so they must be out by Friday. Dot stands up for the group and admonishes Harry. But he is standing his ground. At least until we learn that Nan bought the house, so 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.

Analysis Of Yellow Breck Road

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 we learn of Dot’s true father and when Nan comes to the rescue. Yet in some ways, it’s 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, Dot (short for Dorothy) is wearing the red shoes a la The Wizard Of Oz. But this doesn’t lead to her returning home. So, there could be more tie-ins to the movie. One can see what the intention was, but it doesn’t completely come to fruition.

Summary Of Yellow Breck Road

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

Overall Rating: 8/10 – Very Good

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