STAGE REVIEW: Silk Road @ Live Theatre (01.02.18) | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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It’s fitting that a show about the drug industry of the modern world takes place on a sparsely decorated stage with an abstract delivery method. Perhaps it’s an absurd kind of romanticism, but removing the trade from the drug trade has turned its counterculture glamour into a cold and altogether more insidious transaction. In that respect Alex Oates’ story of a young man who became a wholesale supplier from his Gran’s bedroom is utterly captivating. Explaining the nuances of deep web would be complicated enough, but this loaded story about love, loss, ambition and rejection means a lot of ground was to be covered in a brisk one hour run time, without being over-produced and without requiring heavy lifting from the audience. Yet it achieved all of those things and more; leaving thoughts provoked, ribs tickled and this viewer both moved and informed.

It’s a one man show with local actor Josh Barrow performing multiple roles in a revelatory performance. He switches between styles and timelines to explain the history of dark web drug trade whilst also covering the timeline that takes central protagonist Bruce from drifting young man to local drug kingpin. The notedly adult themes are offset by comedic hilarity in the form of Bruce’s auld Geordie hinny Grandmother (which showcases Oates’ regionally perfect dialogue) and local wannabe gangster Shaggy (which Barrow sends over the top to huge laughs). But it’s Bruce at the heart of the story. His vulnerability, his naivety and his impulsivity are sympathetic and alarming in equal measure. The show is a parable about the dangers of modern technology and the gap of understanding between generations regarding it. As a piece of new writing it has everything, and as a show, with a bit of pacing and elongation, it can be something very special. Actor Josh Barrow is one to watch and the work is an excellent showcase for local talent. Here’s hoping it comes back soon for a longer run to an even wider audience.

Silk Road continues tonight at Live Theatre, Newcastle.

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