Thursday, June 13, 2024

Take a walk through the Parkway Dreams at the Thameside

Review: By Julia Salisbury

ONE word springs to mind when Parkway Dreams is mentioned: nostalgia.

For the audience at the Harlow Playhouse last Thursday and Friday, a £12 ticket transported them back into the late 1940’s to witness the impact of the Newtown housing development scheme, put in motion after World War Two.

The fact based play, which consisted of cleverly thought out scenery and insightfully researched characters, took the audience from the late 1940’s to the present day, showing the impact and influence of the Newtown housing development scheme, masterminded by Ebenezer Howard.

The cast, who can only be described as outstanding, brought to life an array of characters relevant to the time period, including Sir Winston Churchill and Sir Bruce Forsyth. Between the six of them, over 40 characters were portrayed.

Guiding the audience through the play was narrator Peter, played by Robert Jackson. Son to Jack and Mary, played by Matt Ray Brown and Polly Nayler, the character of Peter gave an insightful view into what life was like for a teenager growing up during the ever changing development of the Newtown scheme.

Each cast member also brought a musical element to the stage, with special credit to Robert Hazel, who juggled playing the keyboard and other instruments whilst taking on the role of politicians and marketing managers.

Director Ivan Cutting brought fond memories back for the almost exclusively over 50’s audience, encompassing popular 70’s and 80’s televisions shows (Blankety Blank, Crackerjack and The Clangers) with historical and social time references.

The script, written by Kenneth Emson, put forth a menagerie of views from the people of Britain regarding the Newtown housing development scheme. The dramatically realistic ending was reminiscent of a classic EastEnders cliff-hanger, which is unsurprising considering Emson wrote for the soap.

The pace of the play progressed nicely throughout the first half, allowing each character to give a detailed account of their story. By the second half, the characters had established their role and purpose in the audiences mind. Part two came to an almost too swift of an end, leaving the audience arguably wanting more.

Parkway Dreams can crudely be branded a ‘must see’ play. By combining the elements of a musical with the narration by a key character and a soap style ending, Kenneth Emson has managed to create the perfect balance of drama and history, wrapped up in a blanket of topical comedy.

Parkway Dreams can proudly take the description of the first musical about town planning (and a successful one at that).


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