Monday, October 10, 2011

YOU'LL NEVER WALK ALONE: The Legend Of Liverpool FC

The Royal Court Theatre, Liverpool
If you're a Liverpool FC fan, then I cannot recommend this production highly enough. If you're a fan of entertaining, full-bloodied, passionate, engaging theatre in general; I STILL cannot recommend this production highly enough. I'm not a Liverpool FC supporter. In fact, it's probably best that I remain silent about where my football loyalties lie. But it matters not a jot; I was utterly blown away by Nicky Allt's musical comedy-drama (call it what you will). This is a show about passion, belief, family, and unswerving loyalty.
The Royal Court Theatre, Liverpool is the perfect venue for this kind of rollicking good old-fashioned entertainment, with it's cabaret style seating (and pie and mash for under a fiver!), and classic 30s Art Deco design. Add to all this the fact that several old LFC faces were in the audience (I sat right behind Phil Thompson, who graciously responded to my friend patting him on the back and asking for an autograph!). There was also Phil Neal, chuckling away, Roy Evans, David Fairclough, Allan Kennedy, and even a couple of young aspiring stars from the reserves. Who could fail to be moved in this company? The whole evening had an atmosphere of religious devotion, and I half expected King Kenny Dalglish to make an entrance in a red Pope Mobile.
The cast were uniformly excellent, with local legend Pauline Daniels holding it all together with wit, charm, and a few barbed one-liners (ad libs?). The story concerns a typical working class Liverpudlian family, who in the course of scattering Granddad Tommy's ashes at Anfield, take us on an emotional roller coaster ride through all 119 years of LFC history. And here is where the hard-working cast really earn their money, playing a bewildering variety of parts as we progress through a century of English history. Heartstrings are tugged at when we encounter teen-age Liverpudlians in the trenchs of WW1, and their descendents keeping the red flag flying through WW2 and beyond. I won’t go into detail about the historical events covered, but believe me you’ll feel like you’re reliving every moment of the Reds history alongside legends such as Keegan, Case, Fowler, Dalglish, Gerrard, and many more. Even poor old Michael Owen gets an honourable mention (even though the cast fall silent at the sight of his image, and we are treated to an elongated pause as the sound of blowing tumbleweed fills the auditorium). The stage set by Mark Walters comprises of a huge screen showing non-stop documentary footage of LFC matches, with a football terrace below, the bar of ‘The Twelth Man’ pub on one side (yes, I believe there‘s no ‘f‘ in Twelth; at least on this occasion!), and a live band on the other. Half the production’s job is done by the screening of match footage and images of players and managers past and present (Bill Shankly and Bob Paisley, in particular, are revered as Gods), which cannot fail to rouse the passion of the hometown audience, but it is to the company’s immense credit that they do not rely on historical images alone. Mark Moraghan and Anthony Watson are a fine double act, whether playing drunken supporters or teenage, ‘car-minding’ scallies. Jamie Hampson as Tia belts out the title song with gusto, and more than holds her own against the more experienced cast members. Special mention must go to Lenny Wood as young Kenny. With a face as pliable as Jim Carrey, and some superb slapstick skills, this young actor is a real star. Of course, there are tears along the way, and the tragedies of Heysel and Hillsborough loom large as we head towards the 1980s. There is a particularly moving scene regarding the deaths of 96 supporters in the 1989 F.A. Cup semi final, and Mark Moraghan delivers a superb tribute to those who lost their lives. The actor seemed genuinely overcome during this scene, and it is a testament to his skill that he was able to play his character whilst dealing with such an emotive and , I suspect, personally heartfelt topic.
Director Bob Eaton throws everything but the kitchen sink into this fabulous production, and I am certainly looking forward to his Xmas show, ‘Little Scouse On The Prairie’.
‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ runs until Saturday 29th October.

This review originally appeared at
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