Would a post-nuclear apocalyptic Liverpool be a good setting for a musical? Ursula Rani Sarma obviously thought so, as that’s where her play, apparently celebrating the Olympic spirit of truce as part of the Cultural Olympiad, is set.

Debuting at the Liverpool Empire – the theatre’s owners ATG funded the production via their charitable foundation – and featuring young actors from the the Empire’s and Brindley’s respective youth theatres, the idea was to give both groups a run-out on the big stage in a new production, The Ripple Effect, that would give us an insight into modern culture.

To that end the set-up – a divided Liverpool after a nuclear war, populated only by children – seems unlikely. There are hints of Threads, the BBC’s nightmarish 1980’s drama, but there’s also a dose of Animal Farm and Lord Of The Flies. Add in a good handful of Hollyoaks and you have a fairly queasy mix that is both incoherent and tonally weird.

In the play a group of youngsters, known as ‘illegals’, attempt to gain entry to the walled-in areas run by the ‘councils’ that now run what’s left of the cities, in search of medicine, food and tidy conclusions to dreary teen melodramas.

Barely any of the characters are especially likeable or believable; sullen, shouty lead Beth as easy to warm to as a nuclear winter. Characters come and go, sometimes disappearing for the remainder of the play with no explanation. Motivations are dubious and the resulting rapprochement between everyone hard to believe.

Throw in a few musical numbers – again, does a post-holocaustic radioactive landscape really lend itself to Glee-like choreographed vocals? – to punctuate proceedings and some desperately-needed laughs provided by Callum Cavanagh and The Ripple Effect presented a very strange evening’s viewing.

This was a shame because there’s a lot of talent in evidence on the stage – and the notion of creating a new production to celebrate the Olympics and for the Ambassador Theatre Group (ATG) to stump up the cash to stage the play and put it on a big stage are all praiseworthy. Hopefully the two youth theatres will get a chance to shine again.

The material, however, was not up to it. As if to encapsulate how odd it had all been the very last word heard from the ensemble was a lengthy and cheery “DIE!”. We did, a little.

8 Responses to “Review: The Ripple Effect at Liverpool Empire”

  1. May Collin

    I think this review is totally unfair to the youngsters involved. I read a recent article in the Liverpool Echo saying that there was children as young as 12 participating with the majority of the cast being teenagers. I very much doubt that these youngsters had any input in regards to script, character or plot . One of the main factors that I did enjoy however, was the music which coincidentally was written and composed by one of the cast members. So tell me, what do you expect when you take today’s young, vibrant and energetic up coming talent and then drop them like a nuclear bomb in something as depressing and as badly scripted as this, with a plot that contained holes the size of craters. To me it seems that this is purely the fault of the writers and organisers not the youngsters who where trying their best to compensate for what little and uninspiring material that was unfortunately given to them to perform.

  2. RuncornGirl

    I just have to clarify that The Brindley were not involved in this production. There were plans for the youth theatre to be involved originally, which I assume is how they have come to be mentioned here.

  3. Jacksongreen1

    Having seen many productions by the Liverpool Empire Youth Theatre and Stage Experience, this was not a good example of the hugely talented cast they have. Let’s face it, the play was awful, poorly written and more like a primary school production. Anybody who has seen previous performances such as Bugsy Malone, West Side Story, Les Miserables for example, will have left the theatre feeling totally uplifted and moved by the outstanding performances of these talented young actors. Don’t take this review personally kids! The playwright should take full responsibility. As they say, you can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear!

  4. May – I went out if my way to excuse the kids involved. There was clearly a lot of talent on stage that was very poorly served by the script. At no point do I lay any blame on the performers. The overall effect was, unfortunately, not good. I do look forward to seeing the youth theatre in a future production however.

    Runcorngirl – I’ll amend. I was going off information received.

  5. Matthew Parkinson

    This is by far the most awful thing I have read! I heavily criticise this review and not the show! The performances were outstanding and the music was incredible! And “we died a little???” I didn’t at all! I left that theatre knowing it was successful by the response of the audience and feeling glad that I spent my money well on a brilliant show with a cast of amazing people!

  6. May Collin

    You went out of your way to excuse the children involved – only after the 6 paragraph’s slating a performance that they probably worked on for months. And then after that a substantial 11 words to rectify this. Everyone gets criticism from time to time I understand this, but a bit of sensitivity would not go a miss from time to time for the children involved, and for parents of these children. Personally I just think that there was just a better way to go about this.

  7. The production as a whole was very, very poor. That’s just the way of it I’m afraid. I’m sorry you don’t agree. If you don’t like mine take a look at the comment from Jacksongreen1, who seemed to feel the same.

    If you can find a sentence in the review that criticises the children involved then please show it to me.

  8. Maoira Ryan

    After reading the responses above, I can totally understand the viewers frustration at not seeing the show as it was supposed to be.
    There was a lot of work put into this play, including heaps of development for the students along the way. Unfortunately, due to time and location constraints, we clearly did not show the true potentials of the students and the work that they are able to achieve. I hope that the next project will prove to be different and will reignite the flame that makes these students special.3 key words: time, space, and a second chance! See you at the next!

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