Star rating – 6/10
George Bernard Shaw once said that the working classes were only allowed on the stage as figures of fun. So he would probably not have been a fan of the Library Theatre’s production of Ayub Khan-Din’s new play set in Salford, ‘All the Way Home’. It is in parts very funny, and in parts very sad, but unlike the great kitchen sink dramas that emerged from the North and Midlands via the likes of John Osborne and Shelagh Delaney in the 1950s and 1960s, it lacks clarity and precision of analysis that leaves its audience floundering in an uncomfortable cocktail of themes.
It is set in a Salford neighbourhood that is being pulled down around a family, who find themselves drawn back to their old childhood home, where their elder brother Frankie is upstairs, having come home from hospital to die in familiar surroundings. The tensions between the grown up siblings are laid bare, and other themes of race and the politics of urban regeneration are hinted at but never really explored.
The acting is first class, especially Julie Riley as reformed crack addict Sonia who can’t help but say exactly what she thinks to all around her, and let’s just say that she is not really a glass half full type of girl. Sean Gallagher plays Brian, the brother who has escaped to London to pursue a blossoming career in photography; and Kate Anthony is Carol, who has a lot to answer for, having escaped to the leafy south Manchester suburbs and deserted her roots for the delights of Didsbury village. Her family almost spit out the name of her new home as they castigate her for this ultimate betrayal.
The irony of this plot line is that a large part of the audience will themselves be from the same leafy suburbs, laughing at the people on stage who are playing at being Salford oiks. It all felt a bit uncomfortable and aimless. In the end it felt like Shameless for the middle classes, which was a wasted opportunity when it could and should have offered so much more.