REVIEWS

Warnock 

Venue: Hope Street Theatre, Liverpool City Centre
Thursday 23rd March 2023

Director Rebekah Mooreland
Assistant Director  Leo Hewston

“Arresting, involving, emotional, unsettling. A cautionary tale for society about the failings of the
prison and social care system”.

Background to the Play
Warnock was performed four Years ago by City Theatre and it was decided to bring it back. The play
has had lots of coverage since January and I was delighted to see a virtually full Theatre on the
opening night.

The cast is large of fourteen. I cant possibly go into detail about each one but each one left its mark
and they all helped to drive the story forward. A review is merely a snapshot.

The set is simple. The message is strong. I have to be very careful here not to give too much away
but I will say that the Play left a lasting impression. I went through emotions and accessed memories
I had long forgotten. There was no warnings about the content but you could probably take an
educated guess and say that a Play about a detention centre was hardly going to be a walk in the
park.

Before the show we have the build up. As I entered Hope Street Theatre, I heard very loud female
voices. It was infact the inmates leading everyone to their seats. I had wondered whether I'd got the
timing of the performance wrong and there we also see the inmates mugshots dotted around the
theatre. A who’s who of bad girls.
There was ‘90’s rap playing and I instantly feel drawn into that gang mentality as they bitched to
and about each other and to the audience in equal measure ,all improvised. A nod perhaps to what
it is like for teenagers and the peer pressures they face. In character they lead everyone to their
seats, rather menacingly and were taunting each other and the audience.
Many were unnerved and not expecting it and just as many rather jovially going along with it. Only
one sat in front row because I think in part it could be that one character relatedly said, “ you have
to be brave sitting in the front row”. One of cast was bouncing a netball aggressively next to me. I
found it a little unsettling . Maybe I wasn’t so safe in my reserved seat.
The Play was already ticking a lot of boxes.
My checklist:
1. Check feeling unsettled and taking me by surprise. (That is what good theatre should do).I had
memories of school bullies. And me realising they are just babies and deeply insecure. All bravado.
Mimicking adults around them. They all want to fit in. To belong.
2. Check to making you think. Yes I definitely had a rethink towards my prejudices to people who
had been in the Prison system.
3. Check. Thinking about my own life experience and what this play and the message could teach
me. I reminiscence about my time as teenager and thinking about opportunities that were available
to me.
I felt unsafe and unsure as I sat there. Was I next in line for the teenage tirade? So when the
performance started it all felt very involved and yet immersive. All the stage and surroundings were
used. The fourth wall was well and truly broken. An effective technique for sure as cast members
regularly came in from different parts of the theatre to the stage.

The Performance

We have the surly introductory soliloquy by Sasha. She taunts the audience and advises that we
won’t get a sob story here. We then have Dodge and Sasha and some arresting and quite shocking
visuals and interactions which carry on throughout the Play by the cast.
We see hypocrisy within the system, and young girls not being protected as the play unfolds. The
characterisation was excellent and believable. What you think about a character or a situation is not
always ringing true. We see inmates and staff often going to desperate measures just to survive.
There are some darkly comical moments which run throughout and this was played expertly and feel
was needed as the Play does take some very dark turns.
Props were taken on and off stage with ease by members of the cast.
There are several twists and turns throughout the Play which you really don’t expect. We have a
revelation which is uncovered which I wasn’t expecting. Undercover operations and characters
showing a side you just weren’t expecting. Staff actually caring about inmates which is not initially
evident.

The Actors all acted at all times. They were telling a story when they weren’t speaking. They all
embodied their characters. I feel the improvisation in character and the build up before the
performance really helped with that. You really care about these bad girls with the labels. That’s no
mean feat. With nick names like Dodge and boomerang Sasha, you get the feeling from the
beginning they won’t get any breaks any breaks from Society. There is a great mix of inmates, there’s
the deeply religious, the studious, the bully, the nerd, to name but a few. All reflections of the
different types of kids in the system. There is no one size fits all. There are some that try to make
the best of it whilst others loudly protest their innocence. Small definitely showing up as vulnerable
despite the bravado and copious amounts of swearing.

There are some comical moments with staff members who have dark sexual secrets and we have
pitted with that inmates trying to sell sex toys to other inmates. Played very well by the Actors. And
an unlikely connection between Sasha and an employee of the warehouse she was trying to rob who
really, it turns out set her up. It’s just another adult who has let her down or led her down the wrong
path.

The play tells the age old story of Government cuts, an aging population and all the problems that
holds. We have a care system at breaking point. Its very topical right now and there are no answers.
It’s storing a whole heap of trouble up locking girls up. Some protest their innocence, all have just
had the breaks. No one wins. We see one character getting twelve years for murder. Cries she
innocent. She’s not heard. Her childhood gone. Whilst some make the best of it and decide to make
the best of it.

The themes are dark. Masturbation, homophobia, beatings, rape, drugs, sex, power, injustice, abuse.
But we all know it goes on, often behind closed doors. We find in this Play that there is corruption so
ingrained in the very place that is meant to be reforming these girls and it really isn’t an easy watch.
The music was powerful and set the tone. The haunting piano music at the end where I won’t spill
the beans but there were lots of tears in the audience and I feel the music really helped to set the

tone. The song “ That’s just the way it is” was playing out as the audience were leaving. And indeed
it is, sadly.
“I cried like a bitch” one girl behind me in the audience exclaimed after the performance. “You and I
both” I replied.

I felt a strong emotional connection. I felt horrified, angered, definitely feeling protective of the
girls, even more so as the, Play went on. That despite that bravado, those horrendous labels, those
poor girls were just children and were not being protected. Partly due to cuts, to having to do things
by the book and prejudice.

Despite the large cast, everyone shone. Sasha’s character was a real stand out for me although they
all were successful in making me feel invested in their journey. For me it was Sasha’s story. She
represented the system and the consequences of its brokenness.
You could argue the ending was slightly improbable and I personally felt it was done in a tongue in
cheek way. The previously homeless and motherless Dodge after over a decade has done good after
being taken in. Its not improbable though and it is dearly what we want for the inmates .

The miming and then spotlighting the different characters speaking in the queue waiting for the
phone and at visiting time was an interesting trick and worked for me despite my initial reservations
about it seeming too filmic.

I felt for the characters both staff and inmates although it was impossible to have nothing but
disdain for one character who the audience had no hesitation in booing once it came to the curtain
call. I would call it a dark drama with comedy elements.
I have walked a theatrical tightrope of not giving too much away and not getting caught up in
character and plot but my job is to show whether it is worth watching. Whether it’s made an impact.
I congratulate everyone involved in the production. I had some very interesting conversations after
the Play had finished and went home and had a good think and a good cry. That is theatre that has
done its job. It has done its job and more people need to see it.

Important message
The system is unfair. Don’t judge a book by its cover. Its an invitation for the audience to consider
that it doesn’t have to be this way. It invites us to ask how can we change the system?

The Future
There are plans to turn Warnock into a film. It is hoped filming will begin around August in Liverpool
to be released in 2024. I personally would like this to travel more. I personally see it as a very

powerful Theatre in Education piece to take around Schools, Colleges and Universities and
particularly shown to students or new professionals who are working in the social care or criminal
justice system.
Well done everyone. You made me think. You made me feel and rethink my judgements around
people who have been in the criminal justice system. Not everything is as it seems.

It’s a 5 star from me.

By Mark Armstrong - December 9, 2022

Synopsis Of Snow White And The Scouse Queen

It’s Christmas time, and that can only mean one thing: pantomime! City Theatre presents this production of Snow White, which differs a little from the typical tale. So, Snow White and Will Grimm are heading to Liverpool to confront the wicked Queen, Anastacia. But of course, the Queen has her ways, and so both of our heroes face struggles amidst their quest.

Fortunately, though, some help is at hand. Because Happy (the lone representative of her clan, as her six friends are stuck somewhere over the water) is here! As is Fairy Hope and her magic wand. Yet there’s only so much they can do with Queen Anastacia, who has her trusty right-hand man Hench. Not forgetting, too, the comic capers of Buttons and his mother. So, will the Queen continue to rule (and ruin) Liverpool, or is her reign finally in vain?

Analysis Of Snow White And The Scouse Queen

The story is easy to follow, and as alluded to, there is a twist on what you would expect. I won’t give away spoilers about the storyline here. But there are definitely some pleasant surprises that veer the arc in an unexpected direction. More notable, though, is the humour that we get. Snow White has some good lines, and Buttons and QEII both crack up, for real, numerous times.

But it’s Happy that steals the show with some hilarious comments and self-ironic statements about her role. Not to ignore her amusing dance moves during one particularly emotional scene involving Snow White and Princess Ava. There are also some notable music performances, as well as a fair few tracks that the audience is welcome to sing along to. This especially applies to the final number, which leads to the biggest reaction of the evening, as intended.

Summary Of Snow White And The Scouse Queen

City Theatre’s production of Snow White runs at the Hope Street Theatre until Saturday 10 December. And it’s worth attending to get some early Christmas cheer with a unique take on a classic story.

DESTINY - Sci-fi panto review

By NORTH WEST END 

Published on December 6th 2021

The year is 2034 and we start this panto with Time (Leanne Cooney) bringing us up to speed on the quantum X 5000 experiment which saw a group of elite scientists led by Dr Destiny Sinclair (Holly Murphy) and Fate Lewis (Victoria Leopold) looking to develop this top-secret time travel project further.

But things don’t always go according to plan and Destiny soon finds herself in the past suffering from partial amnesia and facing a mirror image that is not her own. With only Fate, in the form of a hologram, and an App (Jess Connor) to guide her, Destiny finds herself leaping through time righting wrongs before landing up in 1706 where she is paired up with Jack (Shaun Herr) of beanstalk fame and his entourage of a family: Dame Velma, Dougal (Johnny Sedgwick-Davies) and Ella (Elisha Curry).

However, being a pantomime, we need some baddies and it’s only a matter of time before quirky scientist Skye McFly (Demi Leigh Wilson) appears with her invention, Fleshcreep (Leo Hewitson). They both work for the evil Dr Reigns (Anna Chan) as do a couple of ‘giants’, Horace (John Ball) and Morris (Louis Cashin-Harris).

So, with a quick shake of the beans and an ensemble support (Alexandra Rochford; Eve Maher; Erin Ackerley; Abi Lunn; Eve Blackwood; and cast), the real question is whether Destiny will find her way back to her own future?

Panto is a unique theatrical experience making this a brave first step for City Theatre and writer/director Barry Levy, but it was a leap that well and truly paid off from the start with the recognisable themes we’ve all come to know and love successfully interweaved around this modern re-telling of a classic fairy tale. With strong audience interaction throughout, we were delivered a treat of singing, acting, and dancing with some superb choreography from Erin Ackerley.

Everyone performed strongly with clever use of Murphy and Wilson as the more accomplished performers to drive things forward. What made this really special was how they both injected their energy and enthusiasm into the cast resulting in several entertaining partnerships coming to the fore: Murphy and Herr served up a budding musical romance, whilst a hyper Wilson and a delightfully deadpan Hewitson were being appropriately evil-ish. Ball and Cashin-Harris have the makings of a good comedy act with their skilful slapstick whilst Sebastian and Sedgwick-Davies delivered some classic panto routines. Leopold and Chan were the perfect opposites of good and bad whilst a serene Cooney calmly kept the peace. Curry demonstrated a bit of everything with a confident performance that bodes well for her future.

Are there things that can be tightened up? Of course there are but who cares: this cast and crew came on a mission to entertain and in that respect this was a resounding success based on the laughter and applause throughout from the audience, and when you can get this reviewer clapping and tapping his feet then you know you’ve nailed it. Oh yeah, and I got to enjoy Murphy singing again too.

What lies at the heart of City Theatre is community and a focus on work that can appeal to anyone and everyone; to produce theatre that will appeal to the very people that reside around the theatrical quarter of Liverpool without perhaps even knowing it; and productions that will encourage them to not only come and watch but to actually get involved. This is real community theatre; it needs no other labels or distractions. Further information is available at https://cityentertainmentgroup.co.uk/

Reviewer: Mark Davoren

Reviewed: 4th December 2021

North West End UK Rating: ★★★★

BOW & ARROW The Outlaws of Sherwood

10/10 REVIEW By Writebase Reviews, Previews & News for Theatre, WWE Wrestling, Music & more. (writebase.co.uk)

 Anne Heaps June 25, 2021 

Show: Bow and Arrow The Outlaws Of Sherwood
Location: The Black-E, Liverpool
Dates: Thursday June 24- Friday June 25 2021
Times: 19.30
Running Time: 120 Mins excluding a 15 min interval
Age Rating: 18+
Director: Barry Levy

Bow and Arrow The Outlaws Of Sherwood

Synopsis

Bow & Arrow: The Outlaws of Sherwood is a brand-new adult comedy musical that will shock and make you laugh in equal measure.

Bow Scar and Arrow Hunter are well known throughout Sherwood, but not for anything good. They are lazy, jobless and more often than not come up with one money-making scheme after another.

The main thorn in the side of Bow and Arrow is the female Sheriff who rules Sherwood with an iron fist…and whip! The Sheriff also leads the Extreme Alliance. A group of baddies which includes Lance ‘Glorious’ Hemsley, Miss Thorn, and Brutal and by hook and by crook they only look after themselves.

Luckily…or unluckily for Bow and Arrow, they have a mentor in the form of Friar Tuck. A monk with a very little discipline and only has eyes for the menfolk of Sherwood. Men are often seen running away from Friar Tuck. Other times he finds himself in many embarrassing situations. Either way, Friar lives life to the full.

As the story develops, we learn that the Sheriff and Lance ‘Glorious; Hemsley have a grand scheme to open a new adult club in the depths of Sherwood. However, concerned about a strange red light appearing in the forest, the iron fist lady enlists Bow and Arrow (who are heavily in debt) to go and find out what the red light is all about.

Suffice to say things quickly turn pear-shaped for our not so brave duo when Arrow is kidnapped by a mysterious figure. With no choice and wanting to find her best friend in the whole wide world…Bow forms a search party to go and search for Arrow.

Analysis

Bow and Arrow was performed at “The Blackie”, a wonderful iconic building in Liverpool. It’s being performed over 2 nights. Its running time was approximately 120 minutes excluding a 15-minute interval. The venue also had a licensed bar and it also has wheelchair access.

Bow & Arrow – The Outlaws Of Sherwood is described as a socially distanced comedy for adults only with strong and risqué language. The stage is set in an intimate setting in the style of the Everyman Theatre.

There were one or two very strong performances from the cast in particular Friar Tuck (Peter Sebastian).  He also engaged with the audience and stole the show. His song “We’re All Going on A Gang Bang” has got to be seen to be believed. Another strong performance came from Bow Scar (Lauren Lilly Wootton); she was brilliant in her role and she could certainly sing! We were also impressed with Gob’s performance and also enjoyed “Ursula” The Witch (Bethany Clarke).

There were popular songs throughout the show such as ‘Love Shack’ and many more. There were four dancers two of which was Holly Michael and Holly Murphy, who were both excellent.  One of the dancers wore a waist cincher throughout. The cast must have worked very hard during lockdown to give such a great show. I found the whole performance very entertaining. It was a very witty script written and directed by Barry Levy.

Summary

If you are easily offended this is not the show for you. If you want a fun night out. Highly recommended.

Notes

Target Audience: 18+
Content: Strong Language
Recommendation?: Yes

Overall Rating: 10/10 – Perfect

 

REVIEW By NORTH WEST END  www.northwestend.co.uk 

I spent this evening in Sherwood Forest or in reality The Black E venue in central Liverpool. It was my first time at the venue and seeing this particular group, City Theatre, Rep Theatre Group.

The promo promises a night of ‘adult comedy that will shock and make you laugh in equal measure’ and that is exactly what we got. Although there is area for improvement where the vocals and dancing are concerned the thing that would have me returning was certainly the comedy element! 

This was the groups rescheduled first show since covid, and I must say it was nice to see some live theatre, finally. They provided text to Seat bar service, it was a shame the audience had to be so spaced out and not many allowed in, but all the seats that had been laid out, were full. The show ran 7.35pm- 8.35 and 8.55- 9.45pm.

On arrival the venue was beautiful, close to the cities China town. The historic architecture as you enter the building is a vast contrast to the modern vibrant interior. A very minimalistic set, raised seating areas, the only visible item on stage – a projector screen. The back wall was black as was a lot of the costuming, and we could’ve done with a few more splashes of colour here and there to avoid the actors blending into the background and adding a touch more of a professional element.

We had a cast of 16, with some very promising young local acting talent. The story tells of Bow Scar, a slutty heroin and her best friend Arrow Hunter. Along the way they bump into some recognisable characters from the Robin Hood story, but most with a little twist from the usual tale.

I don’t want to spoil anything for you in case you do decide to watch, but I will say it was very pantoesque and the comedic script by director Barry Levy, was outstanding. Bow played by the beautiful, Lauren Lilly Wootton was truly brilliant, great comedic timing and the best vocal moment of the evening performing ‘Out here on my own.’ Sound wise the balance of the backing tracks with live voices without the use of microphones just didn’t work, The backing vocals were loud and not being covered by anyone on stage. On a few occasions original tracks were used and actually cut off mid song.

It might be an idea to use music for play on’s and playoff’s throughout to make it more seamless and cover the background noise. The overall volume needed to be louder also, in particular the opening voice over.

A star of the show for me was Peter Sebastian as a very alternative Friar tuck, a true comedian. I’d just like to mention that it was so nice to have some theatre back and you could feel the energy from the audience, everyone was enjoying the escapism and comic relief. So, thank you City Theatre for providing that!

Reviewer: Rebecca Casey

Reviewed: 24th June 2021

North West End UK Rating: ★★★