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So far Chris Birchall has created 326 blog entries.

Mam I’m ‘Ere. Yes… over ‘ere, at the Royal Court

Whilst everyone else was flocking to watch the recently released movie “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again”, the more discerning amongst us were making our way to Liverpool’s Royal Court Theatre to take in the fabulous stage play that is “Mam! I’m ‘Ere!”.

It may sound the same as the movie title but it has more colour, more fun, more laughs, more music and even more punctuation!!

The show has more than it’s Cher of talented actors, actresses, dancers and singers, so you are guaranteed to ABBA great time.

And with the summer we’ve been having, who needs the Greek island of Skopelos anyway, especially as the play is set on a caravan site in the Costa del North Wales.

Best Comedy Traditions
The sound-alike title is where the similarities end however, because “Mam! I’m ‘Ere!” is a stage musical in the best of Royal Court comedy traditions.

Written and directed by Stephen Fletcher, it tells the tale of Sally (played by Hayley Sheen) who, as a newborn, had been found abandoned on her father’s doorstep. She hatches a plan to discover the identity of her mother, by luring the three most likely, unsuspecting, candidates to her dad’s caravan park on the pretence of having won a free holiday.

It is the eve of her wedding to Si (played by Michael Fletcher) and she is certain that the truth will out when the three come face to face with her father Dave.

Dave is played by the comedy genius Andrew Schofield at his best – and teamed up as he was, with the brilliant Jake Abraham and Stephen Fletcher, was enough to guarantee comedy of the highest order.

One of my favourite scenes was when the three, dressed in the best of BeeGee tradition, demonstrated just how those high falsetto notes where achieved!

In fact, we were treated to some superb singing by the entire cast, and in particular from Hayley Sheen and Lindzi Germain, with music provided by the four-piece on-stage band. Then we had the brilliant comedy acting skills of Eithne Browne and Lynn Francis all conspiring to make this play the success it is.

The set was brilliant, much of it painted by cast member Michael Fletcher.

A special mention must go to the two Disco Divas, Mia Molloy and Rachael Wood, who sang and gyrated throughout. I swear they never stood still for a second.

“Mam! I’m ‘Ere!” is a fun, uplifting show that will have your feet tapping, and leave you with a dozen wonderful earworms to remind you of those disco days and boogie nights.

✪✪✪✪✪ FIVE STARS from the HairyPhotographer

It runs until the 11th of August. Don’t miss it!

By |July 21st, 2018|0 Comments

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Miracle of Great Homer Street

We’ve all done it, haven’t we: Quietly uttering the words “Please God let me win the lottery/pools/bookie-buster”.

In this instance, the imaginary friend targeted in Father Aherne’s prayers was not God, but the little-known ancient Italian apostle, Saint Cajetan, whose Italian accent was decidedly scouse.

And it was just as well really, because actor Jake Abraham does scouse far better than he does Italian!

This brand new play by Gerry Linford is deeper and a little less slapstick than the usual Royal Court comedies. Not being a musical also meant it relies more on the quality of the script and its execution by the cast. On both counts it succeeded magnificently, fully justifying its position as a finalist in last year’s Liverpool Hope Playwriting Prize competition.

Set in 1978, it turns out that Father Aherne (played by Les Dennis) had been praying for a turn-around in his fortunes, and the all-seeing saint obliged by foretelling the World Cup football scores. This sent the wayward priest scurrying off to the bookies, with the laudable intent, of course, of using the ill-gotten gains for purely philanthropic purposes. Ahem …of course.

He teamed up with the down-on-his-luck Terry (Andrew Schofield) and his wife Marion, played by Catherine Rice. And following the standard farce format of secrets kept and misunderstandings exposed, the story unfolds with some fine comedy, led by the king of comedic timing and master of facial expression, Andrew Schofield.

Schofield’s real life son Bobby was playing alongside his dad for the first time, in the role of Jamie, boyfriend of Terry’s daughter, Bella. It is plain to see from where this young actor inherited his acting skills. He and Katie King perfectly portrayed the typical teenage pairing of that era.

The Miracle of Great Homer Street is a very funny play that also has it’s moments of sentiment and solemnity. It runs until the last day of June, and is a must-see for Royal Court fans.

By |June 10th, 2018|0 Comments

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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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