One of Eastern Angles'
specialities has always been to marry a new commissioned play to its
location and to the people whose stories inspired it. The latest is
Parkway Dreams which is about how the historic
town of Peterborough, with its Roman past and a cathedral where both
Catherine of Aragon and Mary, Queen of Scots have been buried was
expanded into the large but leaf-fringed city of today.
That, as Kenneth
Emson's script makes clear, was basically down to three things. One
was the vision of the late 19th century garden-city originator
Ebenezer Howard. Another was the effect of the Blitz on housing as
well as monuments and factories. The third was a population
explosion. So the New Towns sprang up across southern England and the
Peterborough Development Corporation galvanised by Wyndham Thomas
came into being.
At the Werrington
performance I saw, many in the audience (which included people whose
reminiscences had formed the basis for the play) picked up on every
reference and nuance. Parkway Dreams has an
extended East Anglian tour after its run of home-city performances
and it will be interesting to see what these audiences make of it.
The format is a musical drama documentary one, with the story of one
family running through it all – that of a married couple seeking a
proper home and the best for their children.
Cutting, his designer Charlie Cridlan and composer-lyricist Simon
Egerton have combined to keep the action fast-moving. The theme song
"The Peterborough effect" is a catchy number and the
sequence of television games-shows makes a useful reference point for
the passage of time. The six actors, including accomplished musicians
Barnaby Southgate and Harry Waller, all play many parts and do it
extremely well. Polly Naylor and Matt Ray-Brown are the couple
whose mixed fortunes we follow down the decades.
Utopia is a word which
seems to have been bandied about by planners, politicians and other
pontificators over the PDC. It's actual meaning is "nowhere",
as Thomas More and his first readers well knew when he used it as
the title of his book. But perhaps there is something in all of us
which yearns for the perfect place and the perfect society. We know
it doesn't – can't – exist, but we keep on looking. Even in the