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So far Chris Birchall has created 324 blog entries.

The Liver Birds Flying Home

If, like me, you were a fan of the 70s sitcom “The Liver Birds”, you would most likely watch the Royal Court’s new musical comedy “Liver Birds Flying Home” and be expecting much of the same. You know what I mean: Same old sit (uation), same old com (edy), only with more mature actors playing Beryl and Sandra.

Far from it. This play is all that and so much more.

The writers have taken Carla Lane’s original characters, and the circumstances in which they were embroiled when the last episode aired in 1979, and speculated upon the paths their lives might have taken over the ensuing forty seven years.

Knowing there were two actresses playing the 1970s Liver Birds (Lucinda Lawrence and Nichola Munns) and with Lesley Molony and Joanna Monro playing their present day characters, I naively imagined act 1 would be set in the past and act 2 in the present.

Instead, as the story of their lives unfolded, the two eras were cleverly presented on stage pretty much simultaneously, thanks to some extremely skilful directing and very clever scene changes. Not to mention the inclusion of some fine songs reflecting both eras.

It was a tale of friendships, misunderstanding and betrayal. The older birds eloquently  portrayed how people embellish the truth about their lives and how the past has a way of coming back to bite you, whilst the younger birds effortlessly painted a picture of life in an era before they were born, in a manner that Nerys Hughes, and Polly James would no doubt approve.

Whilst the ladies were all doing their thing, actor Mark Rice-Oxley worked a hectic schedule in and out of wardrobe and make-up to play the male characters from both eras.

To sum up, this is a fab musical with a super story line, great gags and lots of nostalgia.

The Liver Birds Flying Home runs at Liverpool’s Royal Court Theatre until 12th May.

 

By |April 25th, 2018|0 Comments

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Council Depot Blues

Just as the ‘Beast from the East’ turns up to disrupt our lives, the ‘Lads from the Depot’ have a sure-fire remedy for our winter weather blues: They’ve downed their picks and shovels and picked up their instruments to jazz up the job cards and make merry hell and mayhem.

Dave Kirby’s script has no real story-line, and none was needed. It follows the antics of a bunch a council shirkers as they clock-on, clock the boss leaving, and make music until it’s time to clock-off again.

This brilliant comedy writer cleverly explores the dynamics between the diverse characters, and the power struggle between the music-loving lads and the belligerent foreman, Harry, played by Paul Broughton.

The musical talents of the Royal Court’s regular pool of actors is second to none. Jake Abraham, Roy Brandon, Andrew Schofield and Phil Hearne are up there amongst the best, with the added bonus that humour is second nature to them. They deliver musicianship, acting and comedy in equal measures.

The play sees Musical Director Howard Gray taking an acting role, and young James Nelson-Joyce makes a Royal Court debut performance that will surely see him returning in future productions.

The one female voice was a powerful one, belonging as it did to the magnificently talented songstress and comedy actress, Lindzi Germain.

The company has a long tradition of staging comedy musicals with the distinct lack of an orchestra pit. Every single note was played and sung live on stage, and the music was as tight as any band of professional musicians without the added complications of stage direction, dialogue and slapstick comedy. This talented cast made it look so easy.

Council Depot Blues is a 5-star show with all the musical mirth that we’ve come to love and expect from Liverpool’s Royal Court.

It runs until the 24th of March – Don’t miss it.

By |March 9th, 2018|0 Comments

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Her Benny

Evie Kaufman and Louie Gray

What an absolute delight it was to photograph this show, and its talented cast, both adults and youngsters alike.

Every time I looked around me in the auditorium, I was struck by the awe and adulation on the faces, and at times, it wasn’t difficult to detect a tear or two as well.

The cast list was as impressive in number as the performances were in terms of talent. More than twenty adult actors and no fewer than forty youngsters made up the cast, and every one of them as accomplished in the singing, dancing and acting departments as you could possibly ask for.

The youngsters were split into three “teams” who would alternate on performance nights, so as not to impact too much on their schooling.

On the night we were there, it was Team B “Nell’s Team”, who were on stage, and the stars who shone brightest were little Evie Kaufman in the role of Nell, and Louie Gray, who was ‘her Benny’. Their on-stage presence and the magic they spun as they danced and sang, won the hearts of everyone in the auditorium. How proud must their parents have been!

The play itself first emerged twenty-five years ago from the pen of Anne Dalton, having adapted from a book by novelist Silas K. Hocking, who died in 1935.

The show if very much Anne’s baby, also being producer, director, composer and lyricist. Back then, Her Benny won “The International Quest for New Musicals” award, and has matured over the years into a fine musical that provides an insight into what life must have been like in Victorian times, when the class divide was at its greatest.

This is an absolute gem of a show. A definite ‘Must-see’.

Her Benny runs at the Royal Court, Liverpool, until February 10th.

 

 

 

By |January 31st, 2018|3 Comments

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The Scouse Nativity

Forget everything you ever read about The Nativity.

History has been re-written. And this time, the writers and soothsayers have even out-trumped the American pussy- ̶g̶r̶a̶b̶b̶i̶n̶g̶ footing president’s re-defining of the significance of Jerusalem.

The Scouse Nativity has to be the most controversial, and the most hilarious telling of that two thousand and eighteen year old story. And, it has to be said, probably no less accurately than the multitude of previous “official” versions of that particular fairy tale.

Messers Duckworth, Scholfield, Fletcher and Fletcher excelled in their comedic roles of Herod, Terry, Joseph and Jerry.

The beautiful Hayley Hampton excelled in her role of the virgin mother Mary, with the singing voice of an angel.

The voluptuous Lindzi Germain dominated the stage – or at least the air space above the stage – as she flew in and out of the plot as the fixer Angel Gabriel, and into our hearts as the brilliant comedy actress that she is.

Completing this unholy trinity is the clumsy, comical, charismatic Keddy Sutton, who had us in stitches in her role a the hapless Lil, and captivated us with her spontaneous musical impressions of Cilla Black.

All credit to Kevin Fearon who, in writing this his second Royal Court Christmas show, has maintained and built upon the unique style of “adult panto”  created by Fred Lawless seven years ago.

Credit too, to director Cal McCrystal for interpreting the script and feeding it to the seven laughter-hungry actors; and to impresario Howard Grey, who’s musical direction can transform standards onto new hilarious Royal Court magical musical standards.

I have to say, the set design is one of the best ever. It’s the first time I have ever seen a huge “pop-up” book on stage, with the actors themselves turning the pages as the story progressed.

From such fabulous performances, it seems almost wicked to pick out any one favourite. But if I had to nominate my ‘man of the match’ it would be Drew Scholfield for his portrayal of an unholy Jeremy Kyle in the final scene.  There wasn’t a dry seat in the house.

If you are a theatre -goer, this will be the best thing you’ll have seen all year. Or if you go after Christmas (the show runs until January 13th) it will be the best way to start 2018.

And if you are not a ‘theatre-goer’, do go and see this play. You will be converted.

The Scouse Nativity gets a resounding FIVE STARS from me.

By |December 7th, 2017|0 Comments

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Amy Wadge at The Clwyd Room


D’you know what… You can keep your stadium gigs.

Last night we just enjoyed the most fantastic night’s entertainment at Theatr Clwyd in the company of just a couple of hundred or so other lovers of live music.

First up was Martyn Peters who, since he played a belting floor spot for us at our local club, Ruthin AllStyles, has spent the last year or so making a name for himself in That London.

And wow, how he’s developed into an accomplished and professional performer, with a whole ruck of fabulous songs from his album “Veins” plus some new ones yet to be released. He played a flawless and polished set last night with fellow Denbighite Chris Walker riding shotgun on guitar and backing vocals.

Then came a solo set to knock your socks off from Kent musician Luke Jackson, before headliner Amy Wadge just totally blew us all away. In fact the two sets melded into one, with each providing backing vocals for the other, during many of their respective songs.

What a song-writer this diminutive little lady from Pontypridd is, and a fabulous performer too. Why is she not a superstar? As good as ‘That Song’ is (featured here in the video filmed by the venue’s event organiser Nathan Stewart), I find it sad that it takes the fact that you wrote a song for Ed Sheeran to shoot someone into the limelight, when their brilliant talent might otherwise well have remained undiscovered.

Congratulations to Nathan and the team at Theatr Clwyd for putting on such a terrific evening, where the atmosphere in the Clwyd Room, the lighting and, in particular the sound, were spot on, admirably showcasing these four talented musicians.

By |November 11th, 2017|0 Comments

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