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Parkway Dreams (tour - Werrington, Ken Stimpson Community School)

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
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.

Director Ivan 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 theatre.


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