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Interview with Writer Nicky Allt and Director Ian Kellgren

The Wirral Strikes Back: Writer Nicky Allt and Director Ian Kellgren tell Chris High how their new show at The Empire is something completely different.

Writer Nicky Allt and Director Ian Kellgren

When the people of Liverpool are asked which show has been enjoyed by more people than any other over the past five years, inevitably the answer will be Brick Up The Mersey Tunnels, the comedy musical written by Dave Kirby and Nicky Allt. Now, five years on from its first full production, Nicky has returned to some of the themes explored in that show and further examines the rivalry between the people of Liverpool and their neighbours on the other side of the river; this time from the Wirralonians point of view in Brick Up: The Wirral Strikes Back.

‘The success of the original Brick Up  amazed everybody who was involved in it and what we tried to do then was tell a story about the rivalry that exists from the way Liverpool’s scallywags see it,’ Nicky explained during a break in rehearsals. ‘ How everything came about in the telling of that story I looked at again and again and realised that there was another story underneath waiting to be told.  With the recession biting and with so many companies going under, I thought  with the way Brick Up ended there’s always  going to be some conniving businessman who would be on the lookout for a way to exploit the situation and that’s when I thought that using Cammel Laird’s shipyard as a backdrop would be ideal.

Brick Up The Wirral promotional poster‘What I’ve tried to write with this particular play has elements of Brick Up in it, but it’s also got a slightly more serious social undertone and the audience can expect quite a few differences  in the way the story is told. Each of the characters are on their own specific journey and don’t turn out quite the way people might expect. It’d be quite easy to tell this story in a serious way, but the difficulty has been threading comedy all the way through as I’m very conscious of getting more and more of those Liverpool people who still don’t think it’s for them into theatre and to do that, I think, a writer needs to incorporate what Liverpool people deal with in their every day lives. So if by writing a comedy with a few songs in gets them in through the doors, great, because I think it is incredibly important for the future of theatre in this city that the “ordinary” man and woman in the street is encouraged to go and see a show for themselves.

‘There’s a few people who are regarding this as a bit of a sequel but it isn’t, not really, because it has a totally different scenario and is being told by completely different characters.  The safe thing to have done would have been to go down the sequel route, but I didn’t want to do that because I wanted to bring something that’s totally new to the table.’

The show is being directed by Ian Kellgren who worked with Nicky on his other sell-out show at The Empire, One Night In Istanbul, when it returned earlier this year after a successful tour of Ireland. Ian also directed the highly successful Helen Forrester biographical musical, Twopence To Cross The Mersey  which won rave reviews in 2009 at The Empire, with Pauline Daniels and Mark Moraghan. ‘On Istanbul this time around, Neil Fitzmaurice and myself were the new boys and after being invited to work on that show I got to see how Nicky’s and Bang On Top’s fresh attitude towards getting people into theatres really works. I really enjoyed the experience. Everybody was so welcoming and responsive and how all the different elements came together to make what was a really special show was genuinely exciting to be a part of. It’s quite brave the way this show’s being done in terms of how multi-media is being incorporated because The Empire is such a big theatre, so on the basis of how much I enjoyed  the experience of Istanbul and the prospect of again trying something new, when Nicky offered me the opportunity to work on this I couldn’t resist. ‘

Having been involved with some of the most successful, home-grown shows Liverpool has seen in recent years, the two men might be forgiven for feeling somewhat nervous before opening night.

‘You certainly get hyped before the show open because you want it to work,’ Ian said.  ‘That is a feeling I really like although I once worked with a set designer who couldn’t go to the opening night of the shows he’d worked on because he was completely convinced the set would collapse. I’m glad to say I don’t get into that sort of state and I’m really looking forward to seeing this show up and running.’

Nicky is more philosophical. ‘Of course we’re excited and there’s bound to be a few butterflies but I take the attitude of my job now of a) it’s not digging ditches, which I’ve done, and b) it’s certainly not fighting in Afghanistan. We’re putting on a play ... a piece of entertainment ... and the feeling I have is a nice  one to have. There are an awful lot of people around who are having so much bad stuff going on in their lives, I feel incredibly lucky to be able to do what I do for a living.’

To book online go to http://www.liverpoolempire.org.uk/content_venue.asp?CategoryID=1149&VenueID=99 or call 0844 847 2525, 24hrs a day


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If you would like to comment on this interview with Nicky Allt and Ian Kellgren 2010, please feel free to contact me - GUESTBOOK

“Writing gets me away for a while' from this world and into one where I, alone, can make or
break the rules as I see fit.” - Chris High 2003.
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