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'Silk Road should go on for miles'

Hiya! So here I am, ready to give my first blog post for Live Theatre, having been lucky enough to attend a performance of Silk Road last week.

A team of three men brought together this innovative theatre which told an undoubtedly original story in a very unique style. Written by Alex Oates, directed by Dominic Shaw and starring newcomer Josh Barrow, the piece is delivered in the style of a monologue in which Geordie lad Bruce tells the story of his involvement in the infamous drug-trading website Silk Road.  The story of a normal lad who got caught up in a world most would find incomprehensible.

Unemployed and miserably moping around his nan’s house, Bruce stumbles upon the what was the real-life eBay for drugs and sets to work, using his local connections with a scary am-dram fella for supply and using his Nan’s knitting skills to mask his market. Drugs would be tucked away neatly in his nan’s knitted tea cosies and sent on their way, all paid for by the untraceable Internet currency, Bitcoin.  Ironically enough, this production was funded by two Bitcoins from an anonymous donor from Silk Road (the equivalent of about £15,000 today). The overall premise sounds more like a serious drama than anything else, but in a surprisingly bold move for the subject matter, the script was brimming with comedy, all perfectly timed by Josh Barrow. Throughout his performance, Barrow plays a total of five characters –  the character of Bruce slipping in and out of each impersonation effortlessly, often with no more than a physical stance to suggest a change. The most memorable character seemed to be that of his Nan; his impersonation of a typical Geordie pensioner reduced the audience to stitches countless times during the course of the one-act play.  Over the hour, these characters were brought to life and used to tell a story which ended in a bit of an unlikely yet workable deus ex machina.

Stylistically, the piece was staged simply but certainly very effectively. Apart from a chair and a pile of books, the stage was bare. The occasional lighting and sound effect struck only when needed with much of the show relying on the dialogue and its delivery. It has to be said that one-character plays are not my preferred style of theatre. I find myself getting frustrated and impatient with the story when we only see one character. However, the variance in the tone of the writing deserves praise.  Oates has managed to take a cliché heavy subject matter such as drugs and turn it into a comedy. While most writing about drugs tends to take a moral high ground and force out an age-old message, Silk Road is a comedy heavy drama which, like the Geordies themselves, doesn’t take itself too seriously yet still leaves an impact on an audience who have essentially laughed in the face of what should be a hard-hitting issue. Perhaps this is the sort of writing soaps could learn from.

A refreshingly original play, full of North Eastern warmth and wit. Silk Road should go on for miles.

Jordan Lloyd Beck
Guest Blogger

“I am currently studying English at the University of Sunderland. Although not strictly linked to theatre, I have recently been given the chance to write original scripts for a module, assignments I thoroughly enjoyed. Outside of university, I am a regular contributor to the popular fansite Coronation Street Blog and last year was asked to interview stars such as Shayne Ward and Les Dennis, amongst others. No name dropping there at all!

Having been chosen as a guest blogger for Live Theatre is a brilliant opportunity for me as my interest in theatre has done nothing but grow since I first saw a West End show aged nine. But whether I’m seeing a show in a huge London theatre or indeed a theatre as intimate as Live Theatre, what fascinates me is how a story’s exposition, development and conclusion all unfold in a single room - a narrative and visual immersion flourishing from that initial act of writing.”

  • Arts Council England
  • Community Foundation
  • European Regional Development Fund


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