The Permanent Way is a play by David Hare first performed in 2003.
In 1991 the British government decided to privatise the country's railways. David Hare recounts the development through the powerful first-hand accounts of those most intimately involved. From passengers to government ministers, their voices bear witness to a story of national mismanagement.
The play is a piece of verbatim theatre based on numerous interviews, by the actors themselves, of the people involved. With a little linking narrative added, skilful collating and editing allowed the quotations to take the form of powerful drama:
Actor Lloyd Hutchison of Out of Joint, the original acting company, describes Hare's contribution thus: "He puts in very, very little bridging material. The play is really one statement after another. He hasn't exactly written it; he collated it."
Incidents covered in the play include the passing of the Railways Act 1993 setting out the structure of rail privatization and the survival and bereavement stories resulting from the rail crashes of Southall, Ladbroke Grove, Hatfield, and Potters Bar. One character is author Nina Bawden, who was badly injured in the Potters Bar crash in which her husband Austen Kark was also killed.
The play first opened in York in November 2003, directed by Max Stafford-Clark. The production toured Britain in 2004, winning the "Best Touring Production" award from the Theatre Management Association. A version for radio, with the original director and cast members, was made by Catherine Bailey Productions and broadcast on BBC Radio 3 on 14 March 2004. It was runner up in the year's Sony Radio Academy Award for drama.