Written by Paul Minx, The Long Road South was first performed at the Hope Theatre in 2014 as part of the So-and-So Arts Club’s Hopefull Rep season. Now at the King’s Head Theatre, director Sarah Berger brings to life this play exploring themes of race and family during the 60s in the American South, and does so in an interesting and enjoyable way.
Andre (Cornelius Macarthy) and his partner Grace (Krissi Bohn) work for the Price household as their hired help. It is now the end of summer, and the two want to head to Alabama to play their part the Civil Rights movement. While Andre waits patiently for the end of the day to receive his pay from Jake Price (Michael Brandon), Jake’s teenage daughter Ivy (Lydea Perkins) does all she can to prevent Andre from leaving. With Jake’s wife Carol Ann (Imogen Stubbs) getting increasingly drunk throughout the evening, Ivy attempting to seduce him, Grace calling him a weak man, and Jake doing everything to avoid paying him, Andre increasingly gets frustrated, which leads to a complicated departure.
Minx’s writing enables Andre’s characters to develop throughout the play, which is what makes him so interesting. He begins as a man comfortable in his surroundings, attached to the house he has worked in for so long, and the family he has served. Unlike Grace, who is headstrong and willing to head to Alabama as quick as she can to help the cause, Andre is more contemplative. By the end however, he is stronger, encouraged by the thought of his daughter and the power of freedom. Macarthy is brilliant as Andre. He is very engaging and brings to the stage a very dignified character. Equally Bohn is great on stage as the smart and passionate Grace. She was my favourite, and I wish Minx would have developed her character further alongside Andre’s.
Stubbs is terrific as wife Carol Ann. She is hilarious as she stumbles across the stage holding a rum and coke, dressed only in a slip and lime-green robe. Her portrayal of the drunk housewife is hilarious but also quite sad. Her drinking is due to her son who is absent from the play, and we are told he is in a home. This was another aspect of the play I wish Minx could have discussed further. While we were told the Price’s son was away, we were not told the circumstances in which he had to leave. All we saw was an empty chair Carol Ann still insisted was served a plate of dinner. I really wanted to find out more about their son, but I feel like this narrative was unfortunately abandoned towards the end of the play.
The Long Road South is a good piece of writing with some amusing and some striking characters, and Berger has successfully directed an enjoyable piece of theatre. However the text does need development in some of its characterisation, but the best part of this play is Andre’s story and Minx tell this in an engaging way. Combined with Macarthy’s brilliant performance, Andre as a character is spectacular, enough to make this play worth a watch.