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Review: Books, Theatre, Albums, Movies and Gigs

Stags & Hens

Royal Court Theatre, Liverpool
February 1 – March 1

Author: Willy Russell
Director: Bob Eaton
Producer: The Liverpool Royal Court

Cast includes: Suzanne Collins, Stephen Fletcher, Rachel Rae, Kevin Harvey, Keddy Sutton, James Spofforth, Gillian Hardie, Lenny Wood, Danny O’Brian, Laura Dos Santos, Shaun Mason, Kris Mochrie
Running time: 2 hrs 20 mins

Image: Promo image for 'Stags and Hens'.

Things ain’t what they used to be and people today are more likely to jump on a jet to Amsterdam to celebrate their last night of pre-marital freedom, than they are to go to their local club. Thank goodness then that Willy Russell hasn’t “updated” Stags & Hens and set it in the present, but rather rewritten parts of this snapshot of a period so that still it works as well, though with much more of a contemporary feel to it.

It’s 1977 and Linda and Dave are getting married in the morning. Dave is legless when he enters the seediest club in town and forced into in the Gents with his head down the bowl. In the same club Linda, the feisty wife-to-be, and her mates are getting drunk, dancing and trying to pull. Add to the cocktail a returning old flame on the way up, light the blue touch paper and stand well back.

This is classic Willy Russell. Lots of subtlety, some moments of inspired genius and an underlying message summed up best by The Clash all those years ago, should I stay or should I go, that has been formed into something so much more by Director, Bob Eaton, and this superlative entirely Liverpool cast.

The pick of which, in mind of equality, are Keddy Sutton, playing the dithering Maureen with such superb timing it is difficult now to imagine anybody else in the role, and James Spofforth as the disillusioned Eddie, Dave’s best mate, who has an edge to his character that is at times both deeply disturbing and highly likeable.

Excellent, too, is Gillian Hardie as Bernie, the archetypal seventies married woman out on the pull, and Danny O’Brian as Kav, the highly talented yet naive artist.

With an effective split stage set, outstanding writing, superlative direction and fabulous performances all round, Stags and Hens is a play that remains a great deal of fun and guaranteed to have audiences chuckling out loud and empathising with everyone on stage. Tremendous stuff.

Chris High

Read an interview with Willy Russell by Chris High - February 2008


Image link: Royal Court Theatre  official website



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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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