Reviews from shows, plays, comedies and music events.

The Scouse Snow White

Cool costumes of colourful cotton and silk. Wraps of ermine and mink. Voluminous bosoms and tight PVC jumpsuits, As far as pantomimes go, what’s not to like!

Then there’s comedy of course. It wouldn’t be a pantomime without it and The Scouse Snow White has comedy and slapstick in bucketloads.

Barely two minutes in, however, it becomes apparent what it is that sets apart a Royal Court pantomime from all the others. You can forget about your namby-pamby double entendre, at this theatre they go straight for the jugular. This is very much an adult panto, hence the program’s strap-line “Don’t bring the kids”.

The storyline very loosely follows the traditional tale. There is the Evil Queen, portrayed magnificently by the wonderful Lindzi Germain, and there is a poisoned apple, or in this case, a manky apple which Snow White consumes with hilarious Mancunian consequences.

There are no dwarfs in this show but everybody was feeling happy as the cast sang and danced to the wonderful music provided by the four-piece on-stage band.

Classics such as “Material Girl”, “Money Money Money” and “Uptown Girl” (with suitably altered lyrics) kept the story moving along, with that master of comedic timing Andrew Schofield joining the dots in between as The Narrator .

The singing throughout was excellent and when Michael Fletcher, who plays the Huntsman, sang Elton John’s “Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me”, he fair brought the house down.

Michael’s brother, Stephen, was a magnificent Vampire Christmas Killer and the quirky Keddy Sutton injected a measure of old-time music hall humour as Mayor Joe.

Samantha Arends, Jamie Clarke and Hayley Sheen – respectively, Nana Dwarf, The Genie and Snow White – provided the svelt glamour as well as fun, magic and the love interest. It has to be said that the entire cast worked as one, like a well-oiled machine, putting on a show that was lively and kept the audience in stitches from start to finish.

The Scouse Snow White runs until January the 18th, but don’t get complacent, The Royal Court Christmas shows invariably sell-out. We’ve already booked to see this Five-Star show again in January. Get your tickets whilst you can!

By |November 29th, 2019|0 Comments

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Girls Don’t Play Guitars

When those words were uttered by John Lennon back in 1963, four young Liverpool lasses set out to prove him wrong by forming the world’s first all-girl rock ‘n roll group.

Mary McGlory, Pam Birch, Valerie Gell and Sylvia Saunders took the city by storm, performing at its many clubs including, of course, the most famous of all, The Cavern.

This wonderfully energetic and uplifting play charts their journey from Merseyside to the legendary Star Club in Hamburg and beyond. And it does so in true Royal Court style, through the medium of music and song, performed live on stage by as talented a bunch of young actors as you will find anywhere.

In fact, casting for this show couldn’t have been easy, because the producers had to find four girls in their teens or early twenties who could not only play the guitar and sing but also convincingly and faithfully reproduce those distinctive sounds of the sixties.

They also had to have convincing accents of course.

Molly Grace Cuttler, Alice McKenna and Sarah Workman drew upon their acting skills to achieve this, whereas for Lisa Wright the process was almost inverted.

Having trained at the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts, she found herself having to reverse-engineer the accent into the much softer dialect of sixty years ago. As a recipient of the LIPA Acting Prize for Performance, however, that was never going to be an impossible task.

The boundless energy on that cleverly designed stage was infectious, as they belted out song after song. Twenty-two in all, including many well-known earworms of the era such as “Roll Over Beethoven”, “Too Much Monkey Business”, Got my Mojo Working” and “Peanut Butter”. So infectious in fact, that the packed audience were not only clapping their hands and singing along, they were quite literally dancing in the aisles.

Although somewhat overshadowed by the girls, six equally talented male actors made up the rest of the cast, variously playing the parts of (among others) the Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Brian Epstein and Manfred Weissleder, the owner of Hamburg’s Star Club, who went on to become the Liverbirds’ manager.

Just as the audience were about to relax back into their seats following the most animated standing ovation I have ever seen, the young Liverbirds beckoned two ladies from the auditorium to join them on stage. It was the original band’s drummer Sylvia Saunders (now Wiggins) and bassist Mary McGlory (now Dostal). And it was not just for a curtain-call either, for these two ladies, now in their seventies, took to the bass and drums to rock the Royal Court as if they were still in their heyday.

It was a fabulous way to bring the curtain down on a truly fabulous show, one I will remember for a long time. In fact, I want to get to see it again before the end of its run on November 2nd.

It gets 5 stars from me without any hesitation.

By |October 12th, 2019|0 Comments

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The Menlove Avenue Murder Mystery

I knew better than to expect your usual murder mystery format as I took my seat in Liverpool’s lovely art-deco theatre. Yes there was a murder, yes there was a mystery, but it was all stirred together in that pot of scouse comedy for which The Royal Court is renowned.

The plot revolves around ‘chalk and cheese’ neighbours in a Liverpool suburb. Trish and Eddie, are an ordinary couple in a humdrum marriage and with a daughter just moved back home with a male Uni friend in tow.  Next door is the recently wed Martin and Greta, still brimming with a passion that masks Greta’s black widow tendencies.

There were some absolutely stonking performances from all six actors, not least from Royal Court regular Paul Duckworth, who played Eddie.

One of my favourite scenes was when Martin (played by Liam Tobin) was preparing to pass himself off as a long-lost cousin. Trying out different accents, his Irish was acceptable, his Scottish quite convincing but when Greta bade him try the Welsh accent, he just launched into song with the audience bizarrely all joining in the chorus of “My My My Delilah”.

Liam was also kept busy personifying Eddie’s imaginary friend Columbo, characterising the shrewd, inelegant and rumpled homicide detective’s mannerisms and accent to perfection.

The Menlove Avenue Murder Mystery is the theatre’s third production from the pen of prize-winning playwright Gerry Linford. We recently saw Yellow Breck Road, and before that, “The Miracle of Great Homer Street” which gained a Highly Commended award on the 2017 Hope Playwriting Prize.

Gerry’s short film “Buddha Boy” picked up the BBC Wales Best Film in 2012.

I think it is fair to say that Gerry has quickly identified the tastes of the Royal Court theatre-goer and is serving up the sort of comedies that satisfy their appetite.

I look forward with anticipation to Gerry’s next offering.  Meanwhile, don’t let The Menlove Avenue Murder Mystery pass you by.  It runs until the 21st of September, so get your tickets now:

By |September 7th, 2019|0 Comments

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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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