As we noted last week we do pretty well for ourselves for theatre in Liverpool. Right now we have our very own take on Moliere by Roger McGough and a frankly epic production of Phantom of the Opera at the Empire. With the Everyman scheduled to reopen this year the drawing power of the city’s limelights is beyond argument.
However, there’s far more depth to the city’s theatre that you may rarely experience – or not even be aware of. The Royal Court is embarking on a bold scheme to bring original theatre productions back to the famous venue, while new spaces such as the Epstein, Lantern and Capstone have sprung up in a very few months and years respectively. Add the startling array of productions that the Unity frequently puts out and versatile city spaces such as the Bluecoat and Camp & Furnace staging productions and there’s a varied array of theatrical morsels on offer.
You might not have time to patronise all of them – heck, we don’t have time to patronise all of them – but we like the look of these plays that Liverpool has to offer in March. Take a chance on a play, marvel at discovering a venue you might not know, scratch your head as you try to remember where you last saw a particular actor and spend the same amount of money you might on a round of unremarkable lager on a unique night’s entertainments at one of Liverpool’s many emerging theatres.
Young Everyman Playhouse (YEP) begin their second year with a return to Camp and Furnace, with a new production, Papertown.
Following on from a strong opening season, YEP has collaborated with the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts (LIPA) on producing the show, which is about a town that appears to be perfect, simple and harmonious.
Like any utopia, we suspect there’s more than meet the eye to Papertown, a setting described as completely different to our own (see picture, top).
Papertown promises to make full use of the expanse of Camp and Furnace; the production offers the opportunity to see a brand new play written, performed and designed by Liverpool’s next generation of theatrical talent.
Camp and Furnace
5 – 7 March
March sees the world premiere of Hope, an original drama-comedy starring the husband-and-wife team of Mark and Samantha Womack, continuing the Royal Court’s journey into original productions at the grand old venue.
The portents are good, with the darkly humourous psychological thriller winning bouquets from Reece Shearsmith and Stephen Fry, among others. Clearly audiences agree too – the run for the Liverpool-born-and-bred Hope, by actor and writer Scot Williams, has already been extended.
We don’t know much as yet, but the Royal Court promises that the play will be “something different for Liverpool”. As the venue continues its push into original productions – it’s already built up a head of steam with Liverpool-orientated comedy theatre – it should be fascinating to track the progress of the Royal Court’s dramatic output.
Altru Drama has a new play by writer Jonathan Harvey, inspired by the murder of Liverpool teenager Michael Causer.
Tomorrow I’ll Be Happy forms part of the National Theatre Connections programme, an initiative that involves hundreds of theatres to partner young actors with new plays.
20 years on from Harvey’s Beautiful Thing, which examined identity and sexuality, the author is returning to those themes in his exploration of two real-life events: the murder of Michael Causer in Liverpool in 2008, and case of Ruby Thomas, who was still a teenager when she was was found guilty of beating 62 year-old gay man, Ian Baynham, to death in 2010.
Harvey looks at the level of anger and hatred still directed at gay men and women in the UK – and the fear still affecting young people as they grapple with their sexuality.
The play will show at the Bluecoat in March before transferring to the Lowry.
Tomorrow I’ll Be Happy
7 – 9 March
Tel 0151 703 5324
Franny Conlin, Liverpool theatre’s very own Boy From The Blackstuff, turns his attention to the Dockers’ strike of the 90s in this new run of the acclaimed Wild Flowers.
Wild Flowers is a retrospective piece about a time when work and family were indivisible; when your job was your identity.
James discovers this when he crosses a picket line during the famous strike (think of Robbie Fowler’s CK t-shirt) and finds himself falling in with the wrong crowd, with the resulting fallout taking its toll on James and his family. Conlin’s play is signposted by 10 original songs peppered through the play, adapted from poems written about his own families’ lives.
The Epstein Theatre
The Sell A Door company started life in Liverpool a handful of years ago, the creation of graduates from the Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts. While they’ve since moved on they can frequently be seen around Liverpool’s theatres.
This latest production – launching the company’s new season – takes on the Bard, with A Midsummer Night’s Dream – the ageless comedy about love, fairies and Bottom.
It’s engaging stuff but hardly uncomplicated, so should pose a good test of the company’s mettle. Following lauded productions Twelfth Night and The Comedy of Errors from director Bryn Holding, we should be in safe hands.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Told by an Idiot has a brand new play that blurs reality and fiction, taking actor Edward Petherbridge’s stroke, as he was preparing to take the lead role in King Lear, as the starting point for the production.
The veteran actor found himself struggling to control his body, but in full command of the weighty text of the play – struck by the coincidences between his situation and Lear’s.
Petherbridge has trod the boards at the National Theatre and Royal Shakespeare Company and is a well-known television actor, while director Kathryn Hunter has also played the role and crafts a tale of fragility and resolve with humour and pathos.
My Perfect Mind
5 – 9 March
Chris McCabe’s take on memory, family, lost stories and Liverpool can be seen at the Bluecoat later this month. The night will also include performances from the multi-talented Rebecca Sharp (of Whale Song and A Soldier’s Tale fame), Dinesh Allirajah and Andrew McMillan.
Mudflats, it celebrates lost stories and forgotten voices, exploring where history, language and memory meet across generations for one Liverpool family against the backdrop of an ever-changing city.
Top image by Brian Roberts