8 February 2017

Last week, senior pupils from Abingdon and St Helen's staged Alecky Blythe and Adam Cork's musical London Road in the Amey Theatre to great acclaim. The show deals with events in Ipswich in 2006 when the bodies of five women were discovered, and a community of ordinary people living on London Road simultaneously found itself at the centre of a large police investigation and media frenzy. The show is a highly unusual and immensely challenging ensemble piece with over 60 different parts. It's based on recordings of interviews Alecky Blythe conducted with the real residents of London Road which were then transcribed and set to music by composer Adam Cork. Premiered at the National Theatre in 2011, it was immediately hailed as a modern classic. A film version followed in 2015 starring Olivia Coleman and Tom Hardy and met with the same response.

Audiences at the joint production in the Amey Theatre on 1, 2 and 3 February were transfixed, both by the piece and the performances of the 28-strong joint cast and 14-strong band (under the direction of Dr Jason Preece), as well as the superb lighting and staging created by a joint technical crew led by Amey Theatre Technical Managers Nick Lloyd, George Killick and Emma Fever. 

Alecky Blythe texted with her own message after receiving photos and a report of the production and the audience's responses to it, she said,

“Thank you so much for that….It looks fantastic! I'm delighted to hear they climbed the mountain and reached the summit! Congratulations to you all.”

Below is a selection of responses from the audiences at the show:

  • I wanted to write to say that the school production of London Road was stunning – truly inspiring to see the pupils taking on this play and doing such an excellent job. A great display of creativity and daring, and a long way from middle England! (Our son was not involved in the production, but we came as parents interested in performance and verbatim theatre.)
  • What a phenomenal, boundary-pushing, fresh-air-breathing ride that was! The whole thing was done with such amazing verve and had tons of swagger about it, but at the same time it was performed by both cast and musicians with precision and respect to its origins…proper, exciting, heart-wrenching theatre.
  • I just wanted to say how enormously I enjoyed London Road…It was the most interesting, creative piece I've seen in a long time. The whole verbatim thing is totally new to me and I think it's absolutely fascinating in itself, but I also thought the production was enormously impressive – so energised and tightly disciplined. There were some beautifully drawn characterisations and I found it both really poignant and kind of creatively uplifting.
  • Just wanted to say congratulations on 'London Road'. I absolutely loved it and the cast were phenomenal.
  • Just a note to let you know how much I enjoyed London Road last night. I arrived feeling a bit jaded and wondering if 2 1/2 hours would be too long.  Well, I needn't have worried, I was spell bound. 
  • It really is a first class production. I found it surprisingly funny. The actors were great, impeccable timing and hats off to your musicians and tech crew, it was all so professional. What a great evening's entertainment.
  • I thought the production last night was truly exceptional. I really can't single out any particular performance as they were all remarkably good. I could have watched it for hours and didn't want the show to end. It was a visionary performance to put on and I found it incredibly compelling.
  • I don't think I've seen anything as surprising and thought provoking as tonight's performance of London Road for a long time. I wanted to congratulate the cast and band, everyone in fact, on a really bold, exciting project. Your students must have had a remarkable experience on this production. It's vital to keep reinventing what theatre/music theatre, that includes opera, can be. The challenges inherent in London Road are there to see. I can't imagine how you even rehearsed it…impenetrably difficult I imagine for seasoned pro's, let alone students! But the cast achieved it, with great poignancy. The sense of a traumatised community, and how they deal with that trauma was wonderfully observed..in fact, painfully 'English', if you know what I mean!
  • In case my text didn't get through, I just wanted to send massive congratulations again for London Road. It really was well beyond the bounds of credibility (for) your cast to achieve that level of musicality and commitment to the staging.
  • Just a note to say how wonderful we thought the show was last night. What an amazing group of performers – they produced such a fantastic ensemble piece. Having seen many Abingdon musicals (all the way back to West Side Story and including Les Mis) we thought that this was the most impressive yet. It was such a huge challenge which the whole cast rose to with considerable aplomb last night. Please pass on our congratulations to a talented cast, band and back stage crew.
  • I was totally captivated by London Road on Friday night and thoroughly enjoyed every moment. Hugely original, and I imagine massively challenging and frustrating at times for the members of the cast, orchestra and crew, but it all came together perfectly into a brilliant spectacle. The characterisation offered by all members of the cast was absolutely first-class and a joy to watch and listen to.
  • a wonderful show. I was hugely impressed by the whole production and am in awe as to how you ever managed to learn the piece! Please pass on my congrats to the whole company (including, or perhaps especially to the band!). A fantastic achievement 
  • What an achievement! Never seen or heard anything like it but thoroughly enjoyed it. Well done to everybody involved. They rose to a real dramatic challenge. Congratulations on a superb first night.

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