TUESDAY 22ND NOVEMBER 2016 – The Dome Theatre, Grand Central Hall – Review by Tate James

I light of recent world events (The Scottish Referendum, Brexit and the American election to name a few), as a nation, we have never been more politically active. Those who would usually have taken no interest in elections, voting and government are standing up to have their vote counted and let their voice be heard. And it is with this spirit that the Lantern Theatre has been able to produce such an impressive contemporary revival of Anthony Cullen’s “Scouse: A Comedy of Terrors”.

In the able hands of Margaret Connell and Mike Noble, this production masters the hardcore subject matter with precision, wit and the omni-present Scouse sense of humour. Amid the abundance of facts about the city’s history, culture and impact on the wider nation, we are presented with a struggling Liverpool, as men struggle to find work and Liverpool People’s Party activists seek independence from the United Kingdom. From rumblings of political disconcert to protest and riot, it is hard to see at what point the fighting stops being defensive and starts to be offensive.

The talented cast of ten are led by the passions of the eloquent activist-with-a-heart Tom, played with gusto by Peter Washington. With the bulk of Cullen’s factual dialogue written for Tom to deliver, Washington gives an empowered performance with the obvious weight of Liverpool’s woes on his shoulders. As the tired wife, Kath, Jackie Jones delivers some of the more tender moments of the show with heart, being dealt blow after blow at the hands of her family’s political beliefs. Completing a not-so-typical but easily recognisable Liverpool Household are daughter, Susan, and son, Ben, played by Katie King and James Ledsham respectively. While Ledsham’s confident Ben gets carried away in the excitement of rebellion in their created dystopia, Susan is the constant reminder that all acts of mutiny are a means to an end to achieve their own utopia. King’s skilful portrayal is one of the standout performances of the night.

The supporting cast work incredibly hard, all taking on multiple roles within the company. Reg Edwards as Macka is brilliantly entertaining, not least as the stalker and soldier. Joining the rebellion are Curtis Watt, as Clive, and James McMartin, as Big Frank, whose changing room banter provides much of the evening’s comedy, carrying through into their many cameo roles. Michael Hawkins as Darren is charming and versatile, and Nicola Ferguson as Lisa, brings a realisation of the consequences of insurrection and one of the evening’s most powerful lines: “Terrorism – a way for people who aren’t outstanding to stand out”.

Tart-with-a-heart Tracey, played to great effect by Louise Garcia, presents us with our stereo-typical Scouse girl in a collection of suitably obnoxious costumes, one of the highlights of Sean Gibbons’ skilful and subtle Costume design. Garcia balances the difficult personal issues Tracey must face with her witty one liners and a true Liverpool realism and acceptance.

Since the closure of the Lantern Theatre in July, its resident team have been able to take up shop in other locations, including the Epstein & Unity Theatres. Now they have transformed the Dome Theatre in Grand Central Hall, with their inventive monochrome set by Jocelyn Meall complete with a lone purple wheely-bin and a brilliant surround sound design by Tom Evans, complimenting the circular auditorium and echoing the play’s feeling of being caught right in the middle of the conflict.

The beauty of this particular piece is its relevance to the world we live in today. Scarily plausible, it asks us to consider what we’re fighting for and not just what we’re fighting against. With “Scouse”, the Lantern continues its bold and daring journey as an powerful independent force in Liverpool’s Theatre Circuit.

“Evil triumphs when good men do nothing”

“No, evil triumphs when good men join in”


THURSDAY 3RD NOVEMBER 2016 – Homotopia Festival – Unity Theatre, Liverpool – Review by Tate James

If its quirky title doesn’t grab your attention then the self-professed triple-threat talent of its leading lady will. ‘The Rise and Fall of the Hamburger Queen’ is a highly amusing romp, inspired (very) loosely by true events, chronicling the life of aspiring dancer and plus-size personality: Ashleigh. The daughter of a stern and matronly mother and a fabulously gay father, we hear how Ashleigh finds her true calling to unleash the dancer within and follow in her father’s footsteps, by seeking the “chance to dance”.

Through a series of extended monologues, hysterical comedy dance routines, well-placed original songs and constant reassurances to the audience of just how talented she is, Ashleigh Owen (as the caricature of herself) delivers a Whopper of a performance. It is no mean feat to maintain momentum through such a high-energy two-act one-woman show, and Owen rises to the challenge as the Big Mac with her strong characterisation and acting abilities shining through.

Whilst her cameo appearance as her flamboyant father was well received, and the dastardly Super Agent Beverley’s Snapchat is bound to bag a few more followers, it is her portrayal of Ashleigh’s mother that provided the most entertaining scenes, an unnervingly accurate representation of the typical stoic dinner lady personality we all remember. But the character of Ashleigh definitely steals the show and rightly so, savouring every moment of starring in her one woman show, and determined to hide her poor stage hand in the wings for fear of it becoming a two-woman show.

The hilarious script by Owen and Paul Burke is, in the most-part, fast paced and energetic and the use of Audio-Visual elements with projection and voiceover adds a layer of accomplishment onto a piece that has grown and developed over the last few years. The attention to detail in the characters’ parody personality traits combined with the witty choreography by Andrew McKay all play to Owen’s obvious strength for physical comedy making this a wonderful showcase for a talented comedic actress.

This first night audience left the show feeling thoroughly entertained, having giggled and belly laughed throughout. To quote the leading lady after an incident involving a pirouette and a pizza slice:

“There was cheese and laughter everywhere I looked”