Truckers are gruff. Quiet. World-weary. Everyone knows that. But you’ve never met a trucker quite like the Driver, a cheeky Jack-the-lass with a twinkle in her eye who transports dead souls to be sorted into the afterlife. She’s not world-weary. In fact, her 1000-year contract finishes today. She’s ready to start living again.
Lindsay Dukes plays what may be the most approachable Valkyrie ever. The breastplate’s in storage (denim’s much more comfortable) and she dramatizes her chess matches, making them whirlwinds of betrayal, intrigue and social commentary. She’s got a story about every other person on the road, and we learn her story as well, how she was snatched from the jaws of death by a deep voice with a deal. She is an immensely likable character, incredibly playful and open, and Dukes does a cracking job of stopping her being playful to the point of irritation. Her storytelling is nuanced and clear enough to keep the show fresh, if not always gripping, and her delivery of some throwaway lines is sublime.
Things quickly get cerebral once the Driver’s left her job, and the world around her is suddenly very Kafka-esque, becoming an implacable bureaucracy. Reality is more fluid, different parts of time and space swapping seemingly at random. The show runs on death mythology for the modern age, where the Valkyrie drives a truck, souls get processed at a plant in Northern Germany and the River Styx is crossed in a submarine with a turnstile at the entrance. This backbone of mythology means that mystery and unease only deepens as the afterlifes’ inner workings are revealed. The story keeps being told, but the cheery trucker stories of earlier are left behind, any sense of universal justice that she was saved from death is questioned, and it leads us on to a wonderfully conceived and performed climax.
The motorway carries on forever. Literally. It runs along the stage, up the wall, over the ceiling and back down onto the floor again in a huge loop. A single crack runs down the middle that eventually widens to a huge pothole on one of the walls. This set functions perfectly with the performance’s needs, as does the haunting sound direction. The lighting falls a little too harsh and wide in parts, but is beautiful in other sections.
Valkyrie: A Motorway Odyssey is a wonderfully told story that is incredibly kind towards its audience. You are so lucky to be invited on an adventure with the coolest trucker ever, and is neither obtuse nor simple in its themes and morality. It’s an enthralling ride.