Parkway Dreams: Peterborough get the musical treatment

Alice Jones' Arts Diary

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The Independent Culture

London Road, about the Ipswich prostitute murders, paved the way for unlikely musicals. Now, get ready for Parkway Dreams, an all-singing, all-dancing drama about the transformation of Peterborough town centre in the 1970s.

The show, which sounds like something Alan Partridge might enjoy, is the creation of the inventive East Anglian company Eastern Angles. Written by rising star Kenneth Emson, graduate of the BBC Writers’ Academy and erstwhile EastEnders script-writer, tells how “how a small Fenland city morphed into a buzzy New Town”.

The Lottery-funded project, based on 15 months and 6,000 hours of interviews with town planners, councillors and local residents, includes several songs including one, “We Need a Tom”, dedicated to Tom Hancock, who produced the first Master Plan for Peterborough new town.

“The source material could be quite dry but we’ve got these really joyous songs”, says Emson. “The challenge is to tell the story of Peterborough and to create an emotional bond with the audience. When we started interviewing people for the show, we heard how they had a dream to make Peterborough a better place. As soon as you hear people talk with passion, you have your subject for drama.”

The show will tour schools and other local places of interest from next week before a national tour, including a performance at the new writing theatre festival High Tide on 5 May.

Emson, 30, from Essex, who was short-listed for the Bruntwood and Pearson prizes in 2011, opens another play at Oxford Playhouse next week, called England Street. Is there a urban theme developing? “God no. That’s my non town-planning play”, he says. “It’s about two brothers on the run after the riots.”

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