I couldn’t help noticing that the youngest were around twelve. And during that first energetic number I surmised that this would be a very different production from the raucous comedies we are used to seeing at Liverpool’s Royal Court Theatre.
After the first number, Royal Court Regular Andrew Scofield (remember Scully in Boys from the Black Stuff?) entered stage right. Drew is normally cast as the archetype scouse scally who gets withdrawal symptoms if he goes more than two sentences without uttering the “F” word.
In this first scene he played an extremely short-sighted lolly-pop man on the school crossing and having suffered a tirade of abuse from the “remedial” class teenagers he was heard to shout “and you can Eff-off and all”. That, I imagined, would be to limit of the swearing on this show.
Woohoo! How wrong can you be?!
Now a full blown musical, it tells of a school trip to Wales for the remedial class of a Liverpool School – and the great playwrite acknowledges in his script that the “Queen’s English” has very little to do with the vocabulary of today’s teens.
Andrew Schofield was, as ever, brilliant – both as the half wit school crossing man in the opening scene and as the staid, establishment, strait-laced, teacher who “invited” himself on the school trip to the horror of the pupils and of the progressive class teachers who’d organised it.
In these roles, Gillian Hardie and Bradley Clarkson were truly great. And you could be excused for imagining that Holly Quin Ankrah was chosen for her role as the young student teacher purely because of the way she filled out that orange swimsuit in the beach scene. But her singing, dancing and acting prowess demonstrated exactly why she quickly progressed from her five years on Grange Hill to the principle role in Rock Rivals and more recently as Geena in Shameless.
Michael Starke too (Brookside, The Royal and Jerry Morton in Corrie) exhibited perfect comedic timing, a really good singing voice and surprising light-footedness as the cheerful chubby bus driver.
My standing ovation last night, however, was for the extremely talented young actors and dancers who played the errant schoolies. I’ve always felt the Royal Court’s success stems from casting “to type”. That is why Drew is such a favourite. Hire a scouser to play a scouser. These scouse kids certainly came up with the goods. So believable they were as the characters they portrayed.
Their energy and exuberance was matched only by the professionalism of their performance. Their singing and acting voices were as good as you would find on any stage in Britain – including the West End.
And I was struck by the irony of the task facing the choreographers and stage directors. They had to discipline a couple of dozen energetic hormonal teenagers into successfully portraying a couple of dozen wayward and unruly hormonal teenagers. Type-casting? No. This was the result of such hard work executed with the enthusiasm and energy of youth. Flawless performances that left you laughing and crying and wanting to be that young again yourself.
I’m so glad I am not a professional reviewer. For I’d feel I had to tell you to look out for the exceptional singing and dancing talents of young Rebecca Cumings, or Chris Mason’s accurate portrayal of a love-struck Jack-the-Lad, or…
In truth, every single one of those talented youngsters delivered fantastic performances and fully deserved the standing ovation they received from a Tuesday night packed house.
I can fully recommend you go and see Our Day Out. The youngsters, the cast, the musicians, the production team and the most warm and welcoming venue that Liverpool has to offer, truly do justice to the unrivalled observational humour of Willy Russell.
Our Day Out will be Your Night Out to Remember. You’ve got until October 17th to catch the bus. Whatever else you do – don’t miss it!
Photos courtesy of the Royal Court Theatre
Read a shortened version of this along with other reviews on the Liverpool Echo Website: http://tinyurl.com/willyrussell