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April 4- 8

On tour until May 20

Gabriel

Liverpool Playhouse
https://www.everymanplayhouse.com/

3*

There’s a nod here to ‘Whistle down the wind': an unconscious stranger, discovered on the beach in occupied Guernsey, is brought to a farmhouse for shelter. And a touch of the classic poltergeist set up, with four generations of women including a volatile, unhappy teenager; when the play opens, she is engrossed in casting a spell. The Becquets: mother, daughter, and daughter-in-law, along with housekeeper, Lake, have been forced to relinquish their grand home; the last, with matriarch, Jeanne, scrape a living via the Black Market.

A rickety set, creatively done, represents the oppressive, uneasy atmosphere: cellar, kitchen and bedroom standing for Hell, Earth and Heaven. However, the stairs to the latter seem to turn into an escalator with characters shooting up and down, yet sometimes, they take ages. Maybe picky, but that is not the worst of it. That’s the over-indulgence of irony, via misunderstanding and misdirection. It works pretty well the first time, in the scene introducing Jeanne and von Pfunz, except for the caveat that an actor of McGann’s calibre is not going to be used in a virtually non-speaking role. But this device is constantly repeated, fatally so, literally, at the most dramatic moment, stage right, when the focus is stage left. The ending pretty much fizzles out, and even the publicity could be misleading because it looks like McGann is actually Gabriel.

Fortunately, plenty of humour in the caustic dialogue balances the underlying tragedy and helps to lighten proceedings. And the cast are largely quite exceptional, particularly Belinda Lang as Jeanne, splendidly arrogant, sarcastic and brave; prepared to go to any lengths to protect her family, resulting in a kind of Stockholm Syndrome with Von Pfunz, although too bizarre to be wholly convincing. Her partner in crime, Lake, played by Jules Melvin, is admirably stoical and down to earth, in contrast to the mercurial and rebellious Estelle; Venice van Someren’s is a poignant portrayal of a rather exasperating teenager. Sarah Schoenbeck is perhaps the bravest of them all as Lily, a Jewess in constant fear for her life.

Good to see a wartime drama with four strong female roles, each woman, hard-working (in their own way; Jeanne’s ways are nothing like the others), determined and loyal to a fault.

Then there’s the two mystery men, both of them with the potential to turn the world upside down. Robin Morrissey as Gabriel, speaking both English and German perfectly, eventually comes round, yet does not altogether come to life. He does however successfully convey anguish, at the loss of identity, then at two dreadful revelations. And whilst many actors relish the opportunity of playing the villain, McGann has to grapple with an unbelievably complex character: a poetic Nazi; buffoon and bully. The occasional silly giggle does nothing to indicate something sinister, yet he is unquestionably in command, in every way, of every scene in which he appears.

It is he who brings the crowds in, but this first play from Moira Buffini, from 20 years ago, is an early indication of her talent. Overall, plenty to provide intriguing entertainment for the audience, and to tell their friends about.

March 28 – April 1

Liverpool Playhouse
https://www.everymanplayhouse.com/

4*

Let’s start at the very end, which seems appropriate because of Matthew Bourne’s mischievous fondness and clever knack for turning the everyday and established topsy turvy. After all, his Q&A session seemed to have had the biggest ever turn out, and included a lot about his background as

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March 14 – 25

Cyrano

Liverpool Playhouse
https://www.everymanplayhouse.com/

4*

Cyrano de Bergerac is one of those larger than life characters – well, his nose is certainly: a Renaissance Man, skilled in warfare as well as words,

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February 7-11

(On tour until February 25)

Pride and Prejudice

Liverpool Playhouse
https://www.everymanplayhouse.com/

3*

A regular Regency romp, played for laughs… Such a rollercoaster of comedy may not seem quite in keeping with Miss Austen’s noted wit,

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February 14-18

(On tour until February 25)

Glasgow Girls

Liverpool Playhouse
https://www.everymanplayhouse.com/

4*

It’s always interesting coming to see a play about which you know next to nothing, and a surprise when it turns out that you cannot recall anything

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December 9 – 24

Little Red and the Big, Bad Wolf

Unity Theatre

www.unitytheatreliverpool.co.uk

4*

The Unity pantomime is always that little bit different, homely, and, to be honest, homilies – but at least no water (or innuendo) is used

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empiredownload

December 10-31

Snow White

Liverpool Empire

http://www.liverpooltheatres.com/empire.htm

4*

Seen one panto, seen them all – it can sometimes feel like that, particularly when you’re on to your umpteenth Cinderella or

(photo: Mark McNulty)

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December 9-January 14

The Star: An entertainment by Michael Wynne

Liverpool Playhouse
https://www.everymanplayhouse.com/

4*

You pays your money and you takes your seat, and what do you get? A mixture as rich as the best quality Christmas cake. This is an absolutely

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Grey Hen Press

GREY HEN PRESS CHRISTMAS SALE

 Half price offer on all books ordered by post or email
during November and December 2016

Grey Hen Press, PO Box 269, Kendal, Cumbria, LA9 9FE
info@greyhenpress.com

November 26-January 21

Beauty & The Beast

Everyman Liverpool
https://www.everymanplayhouse.com/

4*

The Everyman Rock ‘N’ Roll Panto has long mastered the tricky art of balancing ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ and coming up with something new, which always takes colossal liberties. The great thing about this is that both cast and audience relish the old favourites along with the latest innovations, the in jokes, the running gags and ad libs, including the ones which when you do take the time to think about it, make no sense at all… They all come thick and fast, exceedingly witty plus the full quota of groaning puns.

The stage is lavishly decorated as a palace (cum island), with the obligatory staircase and trapdoor. Costumes, on the one hand (and the rest of the body of course), are as sparkly and glamorous as you could wave a magic wand at, and on the other, garishly outlandish. All enhanced to the usual high standard by the music which the virtuoso cast produce with huge enthusiasm and talent.

As for the cast, some cracking cameos from Danny Burns as the Chat Show Host with the most extraordinary line of patter, all clichés and catchphrases. Mirror Antoinette, a name which in itself sums up the level of humour, is a dead ringer for Ruth Jones, and Emmy Stonelake also shines as Cobweb and Taboo.

Our heroine, the delightful, dear little Rose White, is played by Stephanie Hockley with trademark helpings of the ditsy and the feisty, although perhaps she should not be grinning quite so gleefully in the fight sequence. But again, all topped off by that powerful singing voice,She is up against the Everyman speciality, the captivating enchantress, although as villainess Narcissus McSissus, Lucy Thatcher went in rather more for massive tantrums than sinister deeds. Nonetheless, she, along with everybody else, simply kept everybody spellbound.

Newcomer Raj Paul as King Tyrell, the tall, dark and handsome…Beast (well, beneath the Phantom of the Opera mask – there’s a lot of cheating going on here as it were but all part of the fun) is a find, acting, singing and dancing flawlessly. By contrast, a welcome return for Tom Connor, an almost terrifying lookalike Paul McCartney, as quirky Sir Cyril of the Wirral, while Lauren Silver is in glittering form as Poppy, Queen of the Fairies. Speaking of which, though I don’t suppose we should in this day and age – ah well: a double helping, you lucky people: the toothsome twosome of camp, Adam Keast and Francis Tucker playing twins, no less. As always, they had the audience enthralled, up to their old tricks whilst making the most of new inventions, and fortuitous ad libs.

Such is the wonderful atmosphere, the simplest comment is greeted with great hilarity: ‘Awkward’, is Prince Cyril’s response to every kind of situation, trivial or disastrous. And if you want an excellent evening out, the simplest thing is to come along and join in the fun. Christmas starts here – oh yes it does.

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