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Once more for the Road

9 November 2018 | Rosa Johnston-Flint

Cassie Friend and Catherine Dyson reunite for dark comedy 'Thunder Road', which is touring theatres across England until the end of November.

Culture Calling: What can audiences expect from Thunder Road?
Catherine Dyson: It’s primarily a comedy, but one that goes to some dark and unexpected places and deals with some quite serious issues, but hopefully remains accessible. We were inspired by comedians like Julia Davis for that darkness within the comedy.
CC: What inspired you to make a dark comedy about First Aid?
CD: It was a bit of a departure for the company [RedCape] whose focus is making stories about ordinary people in extraordinary situations. It started because Cassie and I were on tour with a previous show, 1 Beach Road, and I had considered a career change to be a paramedic. I'd joined my local St John’s Ambulance group, and meanwhile Cassie had attended a First Aid course herself. We just found that they were quite a goldmine for humour and that’s when we started talking about it.
CC: What did you find funny about those training sessions?
CD: I think it's something that anyone who's done a first aid course can relate to, and we often get that feedback from our audiences after the show. There's something unavoidably ludicrous about some of the terminology of first aid and the way it's taught, even thought the subject is of course vital and serious. I'd say our show takes an affectionate and celebratory look at the volunteer first aid force – we have created comic characters but they are also everyday heroes. 

CC: What’s the appeal of performing a two-woman show?
CD: I didn’t know Cassie before we did 1 Beach Road together, and we formed an immediate rapport. That wasn’t a comedy, but I think humour features in any two-hander in order to form a trusting partnership. I wrote Thunder Road, but we created it together. It does tackle some issues for women like domestic abuse, or the curbing of female ambition, and the characters Maureen and Sylvie reclaim things that might be seen as quite ‘masculine’ – they’ve got a thing about Bruce Springsteen, Cassie’s character Maureen has a thing about cars and knows a lot about vehicles… it’s about these two women being unexpected heroes.
CC: What about those darker themes, what’s it like treading the line between comedy and serious issues?
CD: I think it was important that we didn’t impose those themes. When we first started making the show, they were things that really just emerged from the characters and their relationship between them. We’ve occasionally been conscious of it being a dangerous line to tread, and to be respectful of those very serious things, whilst making a funny piece of work. But I hope we’ve struck the right balance. I think being able to laugh – the audience and the characters – takes the power away from the oppressive characters, which you never see but always have a presence. It’s a challenge to that power.
CC: Is it a series, does it follow on frpm 1 Beach Road? There’s an obvious link in the title!
CD: Weirdly, we didn’t actually notice it until we’d decided on the title Thunder Road! We play different characters and the story’s different, but I suppose at the heart of both of them there’s a strong relationship between two women. So it’s not a series, but there’s a thread there. It’s probably a working relationship that we will keep returning to, the two of us and creators and performers.
Thunder Road continues touring until the end of the month:
Goodrich Village Hall, Ross on Wye
Thu 15 Nov 7.30pm
Habberley Village Hall, Shrewsbury
Fri 16 Nov 7.30pm
The University Theatre, Bath
Thu 29 Nov 8pm

For more information, see here.

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