Friday, February 23

Play Up from Lantern Writers – St Lukes Bombed Out Church

It was a subdued Light Night Festival in Liverpool this year due to several days of constant downpour and the slow and cumbersome emergence from lockdown restrictions. Lantern Writers (a Liverpool-based playwright collective) staged eight short plays early evening at a small outdoor area in front of a small but hardy audience accommodated under a tiny cover and out-numbered by near-by drinkers.

Child’s Play. Written and directed by Mark Davoren

With Natasha Hale, Chris Hird and Jen Morrow

This piece relates some of the writer’s own memories as a boy growing up with two older sisters who conspire to exclude him from their games. The girl’s mantra is ‘I don’t like boys’ and he is the fall guy for their tricks with only occasional mediation shouted from an off-stage father.

Clearly this has had a lasting impact on the writer and the roles are played enthusiastically by a young cast.

Playaway. Written and directed by Irene Stuart

With Robbie James Williamson

This is a funny and engaging monologue about a tired, driving instructor whose wife complains about the need to spice up their flagging sex life with new bedroom adventures, much to his surprise and consternation. The script is well written and Williamson delivers it with deadpan humour and expert timing. There is a twist which I won’t spoil here as this is worth seeing.

Rethink, Reskill, Reboot. Written by Darren Anglesea. Directed by Michelle Parker

With Pam Ashton and Keith Hyland.

Two struggling actors turn their hands to become home-based, kinky chat line workers as a consequence of the government’s much criticised 2019 campaign for displaced workers (we’ve all done it).

Each time the phone rings they deploy fake accents and personas in an attempt to keep callers on the line to generate a meagre income from premium lines.

Their situation is only relieved when their agent calls to offer them lucrative ‘proper’ acting work.

Council House Diane. Written and directed by Paul Daley

With Karen Sharples.

This was the programme’s ‘change from scheduled event’ with Karen Sharples bravely stepping in with less than 24 hours notice.

The monologue shows us Diane, a woman living on a rough council estate dealing with the issues of nuisance kids and drug dealing whilst being ‘agony aunt’ for the many problems if her neighbours.

Sharples was totally convincing in the role and gave insight into the survival instinct which lays beneath Diane’s tough exterior of shouting, swearing and being fearless. She stands up for her more vulnerable neighbours but no one stands up for her.

This is part of a larger work which shows promise and Daley has to walk a very fine line between stereotyping and gritty realism.

Sweet Revenge. Written and directed by Martin Hoskins

With John Purcell and Sophie Holden.

This revenge story begins with a businessman tied, hands behind his back, on a stool with a hood over his head. A masked woman is his inquisitor.

During the story we hear that the man has been a serial philanderer in his corporate life with a string of women becoming notches on his bedstead over a 25 year period.

However, a now adult daughter of one such assignation has caught up with him to administer revenge for both her late mother and her confectioner father. The blow is issued, appropriately, with a sugary, flavoured knife which is a recipe of her own making. Purcell gives a great performance as the callous, unremorseful man.

Making a Pass. Written and directed by Peter Edmondson

With Steve Dean, Paula Condliffe and Keir Hartley.

A man pleads with a doorman to allow him to visit a gent’s toilet but alas he needs a pass which he does not have. The man tries bribery and chat, eventually disclosing that he is on a blind, first date. The doorman finally relents, allow the man access to the toilet during which time the lady arrives, who is known to the doorman.

Snookered. Written by Joe Lewis.  Directed by Donna M Day

With Martin Hoskins and PJ Murray.

This is a hilarious amateur football drama with a hapless and unfashionable referee pitched against both players and the crowd.

Hoskins is brilliantly frustrating as the short-sighted, incompetent ref whose sole purpose is to get valuable time away from a fearsome wife.  Murray is equally brilliant as the moaning, challenging team captain who aggressively queries every refereeing decision. Offstage crowd members heckle the beleaguered ref and matters come to a head when rumours of a crazy and violent woman appears on the side-lines.

Time for our ref to make a swift exit.

Pippa Get Ready. Written and directed by Jamie McLoughlin

With Jen Cartwright.

Cartwright is fearsome in this monologue about a vivacious woman who was raised by her Nan. Her world revolves around make-up and faux glamour and her Nan’s Motown medley tape. Sadly, Nan admits herself into a care home but our lipstick-heavy protagonist visits and performs songs for the home’s residents.

Her Nan is soon on the home’s naughty step following her private TV showings of RuPaul’s Drag Race and rudeness to the visiting mayor. Intriguingly, our brash heroine was at school with the home manager and is on hand to save Nan from the threat of eviction thanks to some indiscreet pictures she has previously taken of the home’s manager on her mobile phone. Cartwright’s performance, including dealing effectively with crowd interruption, is better than the script which promises a punch line which never comes.

Reviewer: Bob Towers

Reviewed: 21st May 2021