a new play by David Hare
I saw this play about rail privatisation at Sheffield's Trades and Labour Club. It was refreshing to see a national theatre production taken out to an alternative venue. But I'm not sure how many of the audience on the night wouldn't have made it to the local theatre - a few maybe.
Permanent Way explores the scandal of rail privatisation. It is based on a series of interviews with individuals involved - civil servants, managers, politicians, and most powerfully, those injured and bereaved in the post privatisation rail disasters. Characters talk directly to the audience. The account comes across as honest, straightforward and obviously anti-privatisation.
Ex-managers cynically relate how they knew privatisation would be a farce, civil servants express their exasperation about the mistakes made, John Prescott makes the occasional appearance as a figure of fun. The estimated 16,000 permanent way maintanence workers who lost their jobs in privatisation don't get much of a mention.
The strength is in the overwhelming anger of the victims of the rail disasters. The play is written as their story, and it addresses the varying reactions of and conflicts between these individuals. Lives messed up and ended by the thirst for profit. As a reminder of the stark reality of this scandal, it is well worth seeing.
Permanent Way opens at the National's Cottesloe Theatre, London on 13 Janurary 2004.
Reviewer: Alison Brown