by Michael Wynne.
Everyman Theatre 3-11 Hope Street L1 9BH To 31 May 2014.
Tue-Sat 7.;30pm Mat Wed 1.30pm, Sat 2pm.
Captioned 31 May 2pm.
Runs 2hr 10min One interval.
TICKETS: 0151 709 4776.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 24 May.
Triumphant Hope in serious celebration.
Right here – here – here. On this spot, where this theatre now is. Across from the Catholic cathedral, where the workhouse used to be, one wall still standing. This is where the drama is.
Urban identity is a mix of people, landscape and buildings. When Liverpool was populated by hundreds, not millions, Michael Wynne’s new play makes clear, it was already a place of legend and stories passed through the generations. Now, one family home contains people who laugh while they mourn as Wynne’s action opens with comedy growing from a funeral-party.
But the laughs lie amid secrets and tensions family members would rather not reveal when young Josie’s new boyfriend uses their story for an oral history project. Tensions rise as relationships are laid bare, and the past keeps cropping-up – sometimes with the eruption of children who make it seem the weave will never untangle as basic questions of guilt and repression, property and ownership, family and community open-up.
Rachel Kavanaugh’s production doesn’t seem to be directed. Which doesn’t mean it has no direction. Its purposes are gradually laid-out, defined by the characters’ behaviour. But it’s the kind of play where direction should be invisible, as should the acting.
Which is very fine (though ‘fine’, in one of Wynne’s finest jokes, becomes a suspect word). And very northern, very Liverpool, its honesty, openness and unspoken trust between players and audience focusing attention on the action not the performers. Every word, move and inflection comes from the city’s character. Every reaction could be found in any Liverpool postcode throughout the year.
No wonder the applause can’t wait to start, or that it develops into a standing ovation – no: a combination of people and players standing to celebrate each other.
No wonder Peter McIntosh’s design throws a street-map of the area across the stage. This is a Liverpool family laid bare, in their dignity and complexity, with actors committed to every shade of Wynne’s script – including the magnificent Eileen O‘Brien, whose Maggie moves through fear and guilt, eventually resolved in the single, quiet-spoken sentence that concludes this hilarious, gripping, triumphant show.
Barb/Sarah/Lottie Byrne/Minkie/Monica/Carla/Lily Lloyd: Michelle Butterly.
Eric: Neil Caple.
Simon: Ciaran Kellgren.
Veronica: Tricia Kelly.
Josie: Emma Lisi.
Jack: Joe McGann.
Maggie: Eileen O’Brien.
Farmer/Richard Byrne/Mr Maguire/Craig/Jonathan/Rob/Roger: Alan Stocks.
Young Veronica: Freya Barnes/Julia Carlile.
Young Maggie/Girl: Kaitlyn Hogg/Rumah Norton.
Young Eric: Frank Turpin/George Turpin.
Young Jack/Cinema Kid: Harry Turpin/ Sam Vaughan.
Director: Rachel Kavanaugh.
Designer: Peter McKintosh.
Lighting: Tim Lutkin.
Sound: Fergus O’Hare.
Composer: Isobel Waller-Bridge.