Kicking off a series of conversations at the Playhouse, two of the biggest politicians outside of the Westminster bubble – the Mayors of Liverpool and Manchester – are here to (no surprise given the title) talk about the musical influence of the North-West.
It’s no surprise that the evening is a little more freewheeling, inevitably spilling into politics, as well as football, railways and 70s/80s fashion, bookended by two up and coming music acts – Merseyside’s Ni Maxine, a striking and soulful jazz singer, and Manchester’s charming and funny Test Card Girl with a dreamy electro-folk/pop sound.
Both Mayors are in a relaxed and chatty mood, with a clear friendship between the pair visible throughout – regular, comical jabs over football rivalries and which is the better city remain jovial and good-natured and each has a relatable tale into how they discovered their musical passions – Rotheram a massive fan of The Jam and Burnham mad for The Smiths and The Stone Roses. Each play clips as they recall first live gigs with the audience unable to resist humming along to the songs.
The uniting power of music is also a strong theme of the evening, with conversation turning to Hillsborough and the Manchester Arena Bombing and their respective musical moments – An all-star charity cover of The Hollies’ ‘He ain’t heavy’ providing a Christmas number one for Liverpool and footage of the poignant moment a crowd does an impromptu sing along of Oasis’ ‘Don’t Look Back in Anger’ at a memorial gathering for arena bombing victims.
Both are powerful, emotional recollections with Burnham looking particularly choked up recounting the fateful events of May 22nd 2017. And there is an audible gasp in the audience when he recounts a conversation between the two mayors as it transpires Rotheram’s daughters are at the concert.
The event wraps up with a Q&A where, amongst other topics, both acknowledge that years of austerity, as well as Covid, has battered the arts industry (the Oldham Coliseum and Liverpool Epstein theatres being recent high-profile victims) and plead with people to play their part by coming to venues and supporting the arts.
Personal anecdotes weave will with inevitable political jabs at the current government and whatever your political affiliation, it’s been a fascinating and funny insight into the working relationship and personal friendship between the Mayors of two of the UK’s biggest cities.
And if tonight is an indication of the quality of ‘An Evening with…’ events, audiences will be in for some highly entertaining conversations.
For more ‘An Evening With…’ events and What’s on, visit https://shakespearenorthplayhouse.co.uk/
Reviewer: Lou Steggals
Reviewed: 1st July 2023
North West End UK Rating: