Reviews from shows, plays, comedies and music events.

Scouse Pacific at the Royal Court

Did you sit at home last night, watching the drivel that passes for televised entertainment?

Well let me tell you… in the heart of Liverpool, at the city’s Royal Court Theatre, there is an Island you will Love, a whole cacophony of chair-turning Voices and more Factor-X that you can shake a stick at.

My ears are still ringing from the most exquisite covers of iconic songs from the likes of Queen, Michael Jackson, Bonnie Tyler and so many more. The performances were so tight that if you ignored the cleverly altered lyrics, it was easy to imagine that you were at some fantastic gig. Whereas in fact, this was one of the funniest comedy shows you are ever likely to see, presented in the unique ‘scoused-up’ style that this theatre does so well. Contemporary musical theatre at its very best.

When you pair up the likes of writer Fred Lawless with director Bob Eaton, you have the makings of a great show. Throw into the mix a great musical director such as Howard Gray and you have a full, tight sound emanating from the pit, that belies the fact it contained only four musicians. Add to all this, a colourful set and a talented cast with some magnificent voices, and you get a tightly-knit company that kept the energy and comedy going without a pause from curtain up to curtain call.

Scouse Pacific is a very loose parody of Rogers and Hammerstein’s similarly sounding 1950s musical. But don’t expect to hear “Some Enchanted Evening” or any of the other original songs. For other than one line from “Bali Ha’i”, which was changed to “Childwall Valley High”, all the music was up-beat rock and progressive pop from the seventies through to the present day.

The story unfolds about a tropical island paradise, incongruously inhabited by a family of scousers, whose Liverpudlian ancestor was washed up there following a shipwreck.  Head of the family Terry (Jake Abraham) educated his wife and daughter (Lindzi Germain and Jamie Clarke) through the medium of scouse: “ya know warra meeen la?”

It transpires the haven is being taken over for commercial gain by evil capitalists, Roger Burke and Richard (Dick) Head, played to perfection by Stephen Fletcher and Guy Freeman.

There were so very many memorable moments, but for me the highlight was the full six-minute version of Bohemian Rhapsody. It wasn’t real life. It was a fantasy – and the entire cast contributed to this hilarious full-length, three-part parody, during which they rightly acknowledged the wonderful musicianship of Mike Woodvine as he rose to his feet in the pit, wearing a Brian May wig, as he performed the guitar solo with the expertise of the master himself. And I’m sure, had Freddie Mercury been looking down from beyond The Gods, he would have been well impressed.

Young Jamie Clarke, playing the love-interest Donna Marie, demonstrated how she has blossomed, not only as an actor but as a vocalist too, with a flawless rendition of the Bonnie Tyler classic “Total Eclipse of the Heart”.

Song after song had feet a-tapping and the cleverly crafted comedy lyrics had jaws aching from laughter.

Magnificent performances were delivered too by Royal Court legends Jake Abraham, Lindzi Germain and Michael Starke, the latter of whom trans-gendered into the irreverent Sister Mersey, alongside her fellow sexy nuns, played by Abigail Middleton and Mia Molloy.

The action was non-stop, and you no sooner finished laughing at one gag before the next got your ribcage rattling.

Half-way through the show, I remember thinking: “if this doesn’t get a standing ovation, I’ll run around the auditorium dragging people to their feet myself”. In the end, I didn’t have to. Press Night audiences are notoriously hard to please but tonight they were on their feet in an enthusiastic display of appreciation, dancing in the aisles and singing along to the finale and encore songs.

If it were possible to give Six Stars out of Five, I would. Do yourself a favour and get your tickets booked. You’ve only got until August 10th.

By |July 18th, 2019|0 Comments

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Lost Soul 2

If you saw the original Dave Kirby comedy, Lost Soul, which last aired at The Royal Court in 2017, the characters will be familiar to you.

Although Lost Soul 2 is in effect a sequel, it is very much a stand-alone play that you can enjoy whether or not you have seen the original.

The story revolves around Smigger’s mid-life crisis.  He and Donna are not getting on, so he moves out and into his pal Terry’s spare room.  Terry’s wife doesn’t know and Smigger doesn’t want anybody to know.  Add into the mix a pregnant daughter and her hapless boyfriend and it all adds up to a play with many hilarious bedroom farce style comedy moments.

Smigger and Donner were played by the same actors (Andrew Schofield and Linzi Germain) as in the original, as are Terry and Pat (Jake Abrahams and Catherine Rice). Schofield’s mastery of comedic timing takes any play up to a whole new level, whilst seasoned members of the Royal Court clan, Germain and Abrahams know exactly what this theatre’s audiences love, and they give it in bucketloads.

Catherine made her debut here as the same character in 2017 and is well on her way to becoming a regular.

There are few who can play the dim-wit as well as actor Lenny Wood. His portrayal as the dopy barman was magnificent, reacting to everything said to him with the same vacant inane grin, until the penny eventually drops. During the break between acts one and two, they kept the curtain up on the bar scene, with Wood restocking the bar and wiping down the tables. Then one of those strokes of genius that make for an unexpected magical moment, director Bob Eaton had him come down into the auditorium to collect the empty glasses from the tables in the stalls.

The two younger actors, Gemma Brodrick and Bobby Schofield, portrayed teenagers on the brink of parenthood, to perfection.

The show has more than it’s fair share of gags and one-liners, with lots of great seventies soul music, chosen to resonate sympathetically with the storyline.

Lost Soul 2 is a raucous comedy in time-honoured Royal Court traditions and as such will no doubt be a sell-out success.  It runs until the 6th of July. So if you want to see it, go get your tickets now.

It gets five whopping Hairy Photographer stars.

By |June 15th, 2019|0 Comments

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My Fairfield Lady – Review

As the curtain rose on an impressively modern minimal stage set, I wasn’t sure quite what to expect. The Royal Court has a penchant for scoused-up parodies of famous classics, and we’ve seen some crackers over the years. Zany musical comedies where the laughs are derived as much from the rewritten song lyrics as from the dialogue.

Having read the pre-show publicity, it was the bracketed words in the line “…takes on another classic with their own (non-musical) version of My Fair Lady” that had left me wondering.

It was a somewhat gentler comedy than we are used to, with a lower “granny will be offended” score than is customary at The Royal Court. It was less of a raucous farce and more of the conventional style of comedy that you would expect to see in the more conventional theatres.

That said, I did enjoy the play. Once I had put my disappointment at the lack of music aside, I found myself really getting into the story which is a sort of reverse parody of Pygmalion. The modern-day Eliza character, Lizzy, is already “a lady in a flower shop”, which is convincingly located in Liverpool One thanks to some slick back projection. She is already well-spoken and the plot revolves around getting her to speak scouse to gain acceptance, and ultimately an inheritance, from the McDermot family. Actress Jessica Dyas carries off the role to perfection as does Helen Carter, who plays her fluent scouse-speaking assistant florist Steph.

As well as the comedy, there were moments of poignancy revolving around the imminent demise of the ailing Mary McDermott, played by Julie Glover.

Danny O’Brien puts in a fine performance as Mary’s son Higson, who is vying for the hand of Lizzy, whilst Matthew Walker was kept busy alternating between three roles throughout the show.

There was a touching whilst very funny scene where the dementia-suffering Alf McDermott (played by Michael Strake) was making a creatively ad-hoc pan of scouse in the kitchen. Although I was left feeling that Michael Starke wasn’t given enough to do – but only perhaps because he is such a larger than life actor whom I am used to seeing in more prominent roles.

It was good to see, once again, the theatre’s recently restored revolving stage being put to good use with clever and slick ‘live’ scene changes.

Would I have preferred this to have been a musical? I’m not sure. As it is, it is a fine play with lots of laughs and a good, if not predictable, storyline. Well worth going to see for an enjoyable evening’s entertainment.

I’m not going to ‘give it foive’ but think it’s well worthy of four stars.

My Fairfield Lady runs until May 25th.

Brick Up 2 – The Wrath of Ann Twacky

Forget about Brexit. The big story of the day is Wirrlexit – in which the Leavers, with their CH postcodes, can’t wait to cut ties with the rest of Merseyside.

So successful was Dave Kirby and Nick Allt’s 2016 comedy, “Brick Up The Mersey Tunnels“, it enjoyed no fewer than six sell-out runs and became the theatre’s signature play. introducing thousands to the very special brand of scouse humour for which the Royal Court is known and loved.

Quite apart from the fact it had a brilliant script, that success was due in no small part to it being something of a local derby, attracting fans from both sides of the Mersey. It seems the posh Wirralites loved the play just as much as the down-to-earth Scousers on the Liverpool side, even though that first round was won by those scallies across the water.

It became the perfect scouse comedy. But whoever said you can’t improve on perfection didn’t reckon on Allt and Kirby coming up with Brick Up 2 – The Wrath Of Ann Twacky. And maybe this time the tables have been turned!

The story picks up where the first “Brick Up” ended, amid the mayhem caused by the sealing-up of the tunnels and the explosive demise of the Runcorn Bridge.

It tells of the joy and the despair resulting from these acts of “terrorism”; of the joy and despair that followed the tunnels reopening; and of the joy and despair in the plot to do it all over again.

Sticking to the tried and tested formula, the producers chose the same director and pretty much the same cast as for Brick Up 2’s 2017 debut.

The excruciatingly posh Eithne Browne returns as Ann Twacky (she’s actually nothing like that in real life), partnered by Roy Brandon as her formerly down-trodden husband Dennis, who appears to have kicked over the traces and grown a pair.

Andrew Schofield is back as the archetype scally and cowboy builder Dicky Lewis. He’s the sort of actor whose facial expressions and perfect timing as he delivers his lines would have you in fits of laughter even if he was reciting from the phone book. And when he dons a frock to become Dee Estuary, a member of the Wirral Ladies Group, you can see what a master of comedy this man is.

The third Wirral Ladies character, Liz Card, was played to absolute perfection by Francis Tucker whose wonderful facial and vocalised, innuendo often results in his being cast as the Pantomime Dame, notwithstanding his wide-ranging appearances on stage, film and television.

The lovely Suzanne Collins showed us that her character Maggie was something of a turn-coat by becoming an imperfectly posh Margaret who had difficulty keeping up both the pretence and the accent, hilariously slipping back into “The Queen’s Scouse” when caught off guard. Quite apart from being exceedingly easy on the eye, Suzanne’s superb singing and dancing skills were much in evidence throughout.

Dicky Lewis’s Queensway Three cohorts in the tunnel campaign, were Gerard Gardner and Nick Walton. Gerard is played by seasoned Royal Court comedy actor Paul Duckworth with the face that launched a thousand laughs, and the part of Nick Walton is played by Jake Abraham, who also steps up with his guitar throughout the performance to narrate the story via the medium of song.

All credit to Director Bob Eaton for his visualisation of a great script, and Musical Director Howard Gray for bringing the show musically to life via the talented musicians in the pit and on the stage.

It had crossed my mind that to understand this play, one would have had to have seen the original Brick Up, but thanks to the way “the story so far” has been cleverly woven into Jake’s mellifluous narration, Brick Up virgins can enjoy this fab comedy just as much as the Brick Up groupies who’ve spent the past decade or so coming back for more.

To sum up, this is a highly enjoyable and entertaining comedy, regardless of which side of the Mersey you reside. It is filled with hilarious one-liners that are even better than the ones we hear on a daily basis from the farce being played out in The House of Commons!

This one absolutely gets Five Stars from me. Don’t think twice – go and see it!

By |March 18th, 2019|0 Comments

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Hello Yellow Breck Road

Devotees of the Royal Court will know how they love to take a classic and turn it into a contemporary scouse comedy.

The Christmas shows, in particular, go far beyond predictable pantomime rewrites. They have a nack of taking the raw bones of a storyline, throwing away the script and rebuilding from scratch upon the original foundations. Some of the more memorable being The Scouse Cinderella, Hitchhikers Guide to Fazakerley, Nightmare on Lime Street, and Little Scouse on the Prairie.

And so it is with Gerry Lindford’s Yellow Breck Road, which doffs its cap to The Wizard of Oz and then takes off on its own unique trajectory. And what better strategy for Gerry’s second stage play than to aim for the Moon.

Just like in MGM’s classic film, the play’s central character is called Dorothy, or in this case Dot for short, delightfully played by Gemma Brodrick, but the closest we get to a Tin Man is the feckless handyman Barry, resplendent in a NASA space suit.

Everything that can go wrong, is going wrong for Dot and her family. She is an agoraphobic young woman with a mobile phone welded to her ear and her parents are facing eviction from their Breck Road home. Then things get a thousand times worse when Dot’s uncle Barry, played by Jake Abraham, performs a botched electrical repair causing a shocking accident. This puts poor Dot into a coma, during which she is transported, not to Munchkinland like her Wizard of Oz namesake, but to the Moon, no less.

The theatre’s creative set builders put the recently recommissioned revolving stage to good use, transporting us seamlessly from the family’s living room to the surface of the moon and back, as the cast were kept on their toes delivering cracking comedy and ‘soft lad’ slapstick, plus some touching and poignant moments too.

Paul Duckworth, Jamie Greer, and Lynn Francis, in particular, had us in stitches as, from scene to scene, they morphed from their adult characters into their 7-year-old selves and then into teenagers.

And Eithne Browne’s portrayal of a grumpy old granny was just magnificent with an abundance of toilet humour, cranky one-liners and with a nice dose of pathos thrown in for good measure.

Yellow Breck Road is an excellent second stage play from the pen of Gerry Linford, honed to perfection by director Bob Eaton. It runs until March 2nd and is well worth giving your chuckle muscles an outing.

 

By |February 9th, 2019|0 Comments

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