Friday, March 1

Love, Liverpool – Liverpool Playhouse

Love, Liverpool, created by Chloë Moss and directed by Nathan Powell, is a tender and varied homage to Merseyside and its people. Combining video, stage performance and a vibrant soundscape, this is a love letter to a city and its surrounding areas, which exposes the high points and the low points, the good days and the bad, and focuses in on the core of love and hope which is left when all is said and done.

Before the show opens, snippets of recordings of people’s memories of Liverpool, curated by Sound Designer, Xenia Bayer, play as a map is projected on the stage with the words “I love Liverpool” is various languages alternate over it.

The play opens with a projected image of a Merseyrail train, and simple setting creating the journey from New Brighton to Liverpool. The first of a series of interlinking vignettes, Chloë Clarke tells her characters story of her life in Liverpool. This part of the play explores city life with a visual impairment which allows Bayer’s vibrant soundscape to take centre stage as the sounds of the train and the people on it are focused on through Clarke’s character’s point of view. Her assistance dog is projected onto the stage in a robotic, outline style, which is sweet.

This snapshot of Liverpool life shows the first of many episodes of discrimination throughout the piece as Clarke’s character is singled out by a group of young men on the train. Arriving in Liverpool, there is a stunning visual of seagulls flying. Video and Projection Designer, Tracey Gibbs deserves praise for the wide range of videos and projections which appear throughout the piece, often enchanting in their variety and beauty. The cast recite memories of various people of Liverpool, with an unnatural echo effect being given to their voices which creates an unearthly feeling of nostalgia.

The next scene is dedicated to the magnificence of Hope Street, as Jennifer Varda, whose character enjoys sitting on the steps of one of the two Cathedrals, talks about the Georgian Buildings and the various attractions the street has to offer. From these steps she looks out to her home in Toxteth, where we meet Aron Julius’ character, who has returned to Liverpool after being away for university and has come to appreciate how much growing up in Toxteth has given to him.

Discussing the history and culture of Liverpool, and Toxteth in particular, Julius takes us back in time to an era of managed decline and how the shadow of the Toxteth riots affects the reputation of the area today. Exploring racism and class discrimination, there are some emotional scenes which reinforce the point that no one should be ashamed of where they come from.

We are then taken to the Royal Hospital, where a tired nurse (Helen Carter) is working the Saturday night shift, where A&E is overrun which people who have been hurt after a drunken night out. There are reminders to slow down and appreciate where you are, particularly after the recent climate’s massive impact on the NHS.

Next, we hear Nathan McMullen’s character’s memories of growing up in Liverpool and faking a girlfriend to hide his sexuality from his friends and family. Finding solace in the safety of Quiggin’s, he soon finds himself the victim of homophobic discrimination in a brutal and terrifying incident. The piece does an excellent job of creating a sense of intimation through stillness and quiet with all its explorations of prejudice and McMullen’s performance in this section is particularly good.

A look at the lonely world of post-natal depression is shown by Jennifer Varda in a poignant and emotional story and Helen Carter works through a series of birthdays at the Volley and shows how community and family has influenced her whole life.

Well performed by the whole cast throughout, Love, Liverpool is a pretty love letter to a city and a county which has been through some tough times alongside the good ones. Very emotional, the periods of darkness contrasting with the happier times create a poignant feeling throughout. There are a lot of stories in it, and at times it does feel a little bewildering as it tries to comment on everything: all the history, the culture, the people, the intricacies of life in Merseyside.

Sweet and tender, this is the antidote to the negativity of recent times, and an intricate love letter to a city and its people. Never shying away from the negativity within, it shows Liverpool for everything that it is, has ever been and will ever be in the future.

Love, Liverpool is showing at the Playhouse, Liverpool until 14th August 2021. Tickets are available here

Reviewer: Donna M Day

Reviewed: 6th August 2021

North West End UK Rating: ★★★