Interview With….Josh Barrow

The actor spoke to Love London Love Culture about reprising his role in Silk Road (How to Buy Drugs Online), playing at the Trafalgar Studios from the 7th August. 

Silk Road (How to buy Drugs Online). Josh Barrow (Bruce Blakemore).  Credit - Nick Rutter.jpg
(c) Nick Rutter. 

Hi Josh – thanks for talking to Love London Love Culture. What can you tell me about Silk Road (How to Buy Drugs Online)? Silk Road is the first play to be funded by bitcoin after the company received an anonymous donation to support their Edinburgh run in 2014. Since then the playwright, Alex Oates, reinvested the donation into other forms of cryptocurrencies enabling the play to do a stint at the London Vaults Festival and a transfer home to Newcastle’s Live Theatre. It’s not just a play about “How to buy drugs online” but the struggle of a young man who after all other expeditions fail him, his only choice is to utilise the skills he knows best.

The play is a whirlwind of truth and genuine sentimental human feeling. Bereft of any pretensions that act as a veil to what’s real for many young men of a similar age to Bruce, it presents obstacles both physical and mental that ultimately set the character up for a fall, but the intrigue of the story itself comes from the way he rebels against everything that is expected of him.A working-class fable that depicts the ordinary struggle in an extraordinary way.

What were your first impressions of the play when you first read it? Whenever I read any new play, whether there is a possibility of performing in it or not, I always approach it first with an audience perspective. That may be the case with many actors, but I think it’s of vital importance to see the piece in your minds eye, alive and roaring, from the opening line to the last. This coming-of-age story possesses drama, tragedy, comedy and what I found most interesting, a lamentation of childhood visions of what life could be. The great job, the nice house, the loving partner, the proud family, the future that never looked so bright; all are dangled in front of our protagonist only to have life get in the way. All orchestrated by the possibility of choice.

I found the play so raw and, being from a town ten minutes down the road from where the play is set, frighteningly real.

Could you tell me a bit more about your character Bruce? On first impression, Bruce is an ordinary Geordie lad who lives with his Grandma. He’s in love with a girl and is savvy enough, even though it may not be in the most reputable establishment, to get a job so he can pay his way. That being said, an underlying sense of abandonment follows Bruce throughout his life, which becomes very apparent as the story progresses. He’s a wanderer wandering from place to place, person to person but never truly feeling like he belongs anywhere. The counter to this would be his nan who has brought him up and has tried to give him the best life she can. Bruce loves his nan unconditionally and, from a personal perspective, I believe perhaps even subconsciously, everything he does is for her on some level. He’s an inbetweener. A quiet loner who doesn’t bother anybody and prefers his own company to the company of others.

Was there anything in particular about the play that made you want to reprise your role for this run?It’s a story that I believe deserves to be told. When you strip away all the blind conformity and falseness that society has cocooned itself in, you’re left with Bruce. A casualty in the war between nature and nurture. He’s an example of what we all are, in some way or another. Excluding upbringing and privilege and how much of an Instagram following you have, we are all just vessels with a choice to either progress or stagnate. Bruce recognises what he’s good at and uses that to progress, it’s just an unfortunate circumstance that what he is good at is setting up a cocaine empire. Should his talent have been in flower arranging I have no doubt that he would make his fortune doing that, but the raw truth is that it isn’t. He is a person that recognises he is going nowhere where he is and makes an active decision to change it. I respect him for that.

What do you think audiences will take away from the production? Contrary to the title, the play is far more than an instruction manual on how to buy drugs online. It gives an insight into the dark web that neither condones nor chastises the community that Silk Road (the website) is. An Ebay for every drug known to man would have the producers of The Apprentice or Dragon’s Den running to the authorities, and rightly so in many respects, however the production introduces the prospect of Silk Road being something far more than a simple way to get your fix. It conveys the mentality of the website’s creator ‘The Dread Pirate Roberts’ who felt the success of Silk Road came from the relationship built between its customers and its vendors rather from the products themselves.It presents to an audience an impartial perspective and allows them to make up their own minds of what Silk Road the website actually is.

For those coming along to see the show – what can they expect? They should expect to have their own morals and everything they have been told to be right questioned. They should expect a point of view from a lonely young man who only wants to do right by those he loves. They should be completely open to the power of storytelling while also remembering their own circumstances and their own perception of the world they know. They should remember to never forget who they are and where they’ve come from and the choices they’ve made to get them where they needed to be.

By Emma Clarendon

Silk Road (How to Buy Drugs Online) will play at the trafalgar studios from the 7th August until the 1st September . To book tickets visit ATG Tickets


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