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Review: Books, Theatre, Albums, Movies and Gigs

ERIC'S

LIVERPOOL PLAYHOUSE
September 19-October 11

Image: Eric's Promotional Image

Everyman Liverpool Playhouse official website

 

A play of two halves, you could say, and one inevitably turns out to be bigger than the other: history tends to outweigh personal history, albeit a tragic yet triumphant story.


When Joe (aka playwright Mark Davies Markham) is diagnosed with cancer, his fight for life runs in tandem with memories of his younger self, Joey, when his life revolved around Eric’s, the legendary club. So well is that fascination conveyed, the scenes in the legendary club with its legendary characters tend overwhelm the rest. The result is somewhat convoluted; in one instance, the hospital bed is hoisted up with a doctor’s coat left dangling in mid air, though that could of course have been a metaphor. In some scenes, characters past and present damn near bump into each other. Fortunately, the choreography somehow manages to avoid that, despite all the frenetic dancing and bouncing around which excellently portray the crowded club. As do the weird and wonderful costumes, some of which could be the height of fashion today. The songs and the singing, needless to say, could not be bettered.

 

There are so many nods to Liverpool’s past glories the effect is dizzying, and Markham seems to have had his favourites. Elvis Costello and Pete Burns, the latter in particular, are something of an understatement, while slapstick is reserved for Jayne Casey, later spotted holding court outside the theatre. And if Pete Wylie were in the audience, we’d surely have known about it. As a man who never quite had the greatness he deserved thrust upon him, he gets the sympathy vote (perhaps more so than Joe/Joey), though probably he’d tell you just where to stuff it.

Yes, they could be heroes, Wylie and Julian Cope and Ian McCulloch (Peter Caulfield) - who makes you think maybe there are too many syllables in the word ‘laconic’. Of course, it’s Liverpool so humour abounds though one potentially excellent joke about Reg falls flat with an all too obvious wait for the audience reaction. Much of the comedy comes from Sam Donovan as the posturing, grandiloquent Wylie, and Oliver Jackson as Cope. The latter, sportingly, gave his blessing to the show, but it’s all too easy to imagine that he took his initials to heart at an early age and swore always to live up to them.

Ciaran Kellgren makes a good sounding board/sidekick as best friend Colin, the fickle fan swamped by his Army greatcoat, with Dean Kelly as the doctor whose instruments hopefully are not as blunt as his tongue.  Mark Moraghan (Reg) is something of a pinball wizard, cleverly ricocheting between boozy, ebullience and bullying whilst Lesley Nicol tiptoes marvellously between Eileen, down to earth wife and mother and Hilary the Punk Milkmaid, faring better than Katy Dean as Joey’s token, inevitably pregnant girlfriend, Karen. And last but not least, Stephen Fletcher (Joey) and Graham Buckley (Joe) were terrific, with the latter well matched by Rosalie Craig as Sally, in their valiant struggle.

So maybe in parts, it was a bit of a shambles but that serves well as a metaphor for punk, and life in general, after all. The theatre was absolutely packed, as if everybody who had ever been to Eric’s (or hadn’t, and wished they had) were there. And there was a standing ovation, maybe mostly for the sake of the good old days and golden oldies – once upon a time where we were all oh so young.

Carole Baldock

Everyman Liverpool Playhouse official website
www.everymanplayhouse.com


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“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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