Winter traditionally is a time of slimming, saving and shivering – sloughing off the excesses of Christmas and enduring a few weeks of mild, dull, worthy self-denial: Get a few weeks of austerity in and we can all come up smiling with the daffs in March.

Well, the theatre says bollocks to all that. Even though some pantos are still on at the time of writing, Liverpool’s theatres barely stop to gather their breath in Winter, ploughing on with a new season and whole new set of productions for our delight.

That’s good news for everyone, we reckon, and we can all feel a little virtuous about a trip to the theatre – bringing a little upward curve to our lips and spreading a bit of wealth around our hard-working theatres.

We’ve come up with a selection of productions to suit every palate over January and February at some of our oldest, newest, largest and smallest venues. But don’t think of this as an exhaustive list – it’s just a taster; get out there, pick up booklet, surf the web and find out what else is going on out there.

Give Gangster Squad, sticky carpets and the overpriced popcorn a miss this month and do something more interesting instead – or we’ll have to send Rhydian (see below if you dare) around.

Roger McGough returns to the Playhouse

The Playhouse has been on a roll for, ooh, more years than we can count on one hand now and there’s another coup this Winter. Roger McGough returns with another take on a Moliere classic.

Following the giddily-enjoyable Tartuffe and The Hypochondriac, Liverpool’s cleverest man ventures back into the world of 17th Century French aristocracy in this comedy of manners and morals; The Misanthrope.

McGough has a real way with the language and the deft touch of Gemma Bodinetz as director add up to something we’re eagerly awaiting. Fans might like to know that McGough performs poems from his new work, As Far As I Know, in the run-up to The Misanthrope.

The Misanthrope
Liverpool Playhouse
15 February – 9 March

Spike Theatre at the Studio

Local company Spike Theatre presents Sink or Swim, a comedy of three men’s struggle at sea, based loosely on fact and staged at the Playhouse’ cosy venue for new productions, the Studio.

The Studio has been a little gem in Liverpool’s theatre world of late, with confident, powerful new productions that fit the intimate space beautifully.

Spike, too, has a strong reputation for premiering new work and Sink Or Swim mixes comedy, music and song aboard a lifeboat adrift on the Atlantic. There’s a strong local cast and the play marks Spike’s 15th anniversary.

Sink or Swim
Liverpool Playhouse Studio
18-23 Feb

Big Wow’s Art Of Falling Apart

We’ve been gushing about The Art of Falling Apart – very much a homegrown production making a welcome return to the Unity’s stage.

The play is a kinetic, inventive and hugely entertaining physical comedy from the Big Wow duo. Funny and poignant, this two-hander explores what happens when someone succumbs to a devastating mid-life crisis.

Doesn’t sound like much fun, eh? Well it is, get yourself down – and read our review if you need any more convincing.

The Art of Falling Apart
Unity Theatre
Until 26 Jan

Oliver Reed’s Last Day

‘Last day’ plays seem to be all the rage – only recently did we recently witness the on-stage death of Les Dennis (more or less anyway) in the excellent Jigsy and see the life and times – and death – of Big Daddy. Melodramatic – or even maudlin theatrical monologues are nothing new, but the two we’ve just mentioned were very strong examples.

We’re hoping Oliver Reed: Wild Thing (pictured, top) continues in the same vein. The portents look good: Ollie knocks back the booze as he recounts his thirsty career as he heads towards his last performance – and Rob Crouch has won rave reviews for his take on the great hellraiser.

Oliver Reed: Wild Thing
Wednesday 6th February
Epstein Theatre

Musical Theatre at the Empire

Two staples of the musical theatre come to the Empire this Winter; firstly the Rock Horror Show chills our stockinged nether regions, then it’s The Phantom of the Opera scaring the bats in the attic.

The former, the famous cross-dressing rock musical famous for bringing Tim Curry, Susan Sarandon, Richard O’Brien and Meatloaf together (imagine that these days) stars Rhydian and Ben Forster.

We can’t help wondering if white-haired baroque tenor Rhydian has been miscast though – surely he’d be perfect in Cameron Mackintosh’s new production of Andrew Lloyd Webber stand-by The Phantom of the Opera?

The Rocky Horror Show
Liverpool Empire
11-16 Feb

Phantom of the Opera
Liverpool Empire
20 Feb – 9 March

Dario Fo on St Francis of Assisi

Dario Fo’s monologue on St Francis of Assisi, performed in the manner of a jester or storyteller intertwines historical reality and popular tradition to recount significant moments in the saint’s life, bringing a number of medieval Italian characters to life in the process.

The monologue suggests that Francis is one of the most important in the catholic church, but has been largely overlooked. Performer Mario Pirovano really brings Fo’s text to life – having performed it at the Fringe Festival in Edinburgh to critical acclaim – in an unusual production you’re unlikely to get another chance to see in Merseyside. For that we believe this will be a special evening.

Francis the Holy Jester
Tuesday 19 February
Capstone Theatre

Serious Fun: The Pied Piper of Liverpool

We very much enjoyed Burjesta Theatre’s novel Liverpool-based take on the Jack The Ripper legend last year in Gathering Jack. As an alternative Valentine’s Day it was a salty treat, so we’re chuffed that they’re repeating the dose this year.

The Pied Piper of Liverpool is set in a dystopian near-future (aren’t all near-futures dystopian?) where rats overrun the streets and there’s something afoot at Town Hall. We expect committed performances, some neat takes on Liverpool politics and a winning, sly humour to it all.

The Pied Piper of Liverpool
The Casa
January 25, 26, 28, 30 / Friday 1st

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