Royal Court Liverpool in association with Unity Theatre
1 Hope Place, Liverpool L1 9BG
Life imitating Art… goodness, what a brainwave: Katie Mulgrew has taken this idea and run with it, and then some, when the lives of real people (well, you know what I mean) , which already resemble a soap opera, take a sudden turn with the introduction of a new character.
We’re currently in a cosy living room (not the 80s, despite the Dirty Dancing poster…) where Mark and Nell share a house with landlady Lauren. The three of them are busy watching something with gangsters on TV whilst Mark’s girlfirend Jess is busy in the kitchen attempting to make dinner; I mean, tea. Then Leslie (gender neutral – and I still spelt it wrongly) turns up with a suspiciously heavy bag, at the wrong house.
The dialogue, as you may have guessed, is packed with catchphrases and running jokes, and extremely funny; it’s not that often you get audiences applauding scenes, never mind witty comments. This soars with the jokes and daft remarks, then plummets, laden with sadness. Best of all, it is exceptionally true to life, even to the point of long, meandering, ultimately pointless anecdotes, which it takes an actress of the cailbre of Eithne Brown to deliver. As Nell’s Mum, she brings a leg of lamb, along with a whole new dimension to the description ‘cameo’.
The farcical plot (in the very best sense of the word) merrily gallops along, breathlessly fast paced – tho how anybody could ignore thousands of pounds lying around is stretching it a bit. But the cast as a whole cannot be faulted, although they seem to veer initially towards sterotypical: sensible, stoical Nell (Gemma Banks), ‘sexily stupid’ Jess, mournful, drunken Lauren; feckless Mark and flaky Leslie (Danny Burns). But like the playwright, they take these archetypes and run rings round them with their own particular interpretation.So we admire Nell, determined to do the right thing, and we’re delighted when she is rewarded; we’re entertained by Danny Burns as Mark, even if he could do with a good shake. We feel for Alice Whitney-Bunker’s abandoned Lauren and wish her the best in an unusual choice of a future, as we do for Leslie, tormented by dilemma but ultimately determined to do the right thing. Best of all, and quite frankly, worst of all, there’s Jess, whom Eva McKenna absolutely goes to town with (Essex), and cleverly plays as screechingly OMG over the top; absolutely infuriating and an utter bitch. She may not earn our sympahty but boy, every time she puts in an appearance, you are glued to your seat.
So it’s welcome to the new look Unity, and delighted to have the opportunity to welcome the wnner of the Liverpool Hope Playwriting Prize. Out of 200 entries, Katie Muldrew must have had the judges rubbing their hands with glee – just as audiences will be putting their hands together for this tremendously sparkling production, and for all her future successes too.