Continuing with the opening season at Shakespeare North Playhouse, this tale explores the link between the 16th century poet and playwright to the Merseyside town of Prescot, in a fun, imaginative and engaging way.
The production team “Imaginarium” is aptly named and as an award-winning ensemble, took us effortlessly and with enviable talent, through their “Strange Tale” of worm holes, eccentric lords, brassy landladies, besotted girls and tattooed thugs, to their adored town Prescot were somehow the bard had appeared.
The Cockpit Theatre was a very fitting place to share with us the tale of how the bard transported from Stratford upon Avon in Tudor times to this pub in the centre of the Liverpudlian town. The links to the original Prescot Playhouse (where now stands a barber shop) were explored in a very 21st century way, (mobile phones, modern music, selfies and struggling pubs) and this idea of the writer Rob Brannen and portrayed wonderfully by the artistic director Gaynor La Rocca (both who watched the show this evening with us in the audience) was a stroke of genius.
We were exposed to songs “our neighbourhood’s got history’ and “can’t speak like a scouser’ which were comical, endearing and made the whole theatre feel they were home and that Prescot was just that. The cast of “Imaginarium” were local people with an age range of 16-86 and the programme (given to the audience for free) listed the cast with their occupations ‘retail worker’, ‘barrister’, ‘6th form student’, instead of a listing of their theatre and TV appearances and this portrayed this local ensemble as ‘real people’ and shared how everyone and anyone can live their dream of acting on such a prestigious stage.
The story was fast paced, passionate, comical and captivating. The audience loved the mayhem, the eccentric Lord Strange from Knowsley, the confused poet, the cheery landlord and landlady, the adoring young girl, the scatty granny and the double-trouble aspiring actors with equal measure. Through the investigations of the STD – Shakespeare Theatre Detectives – a great skit on words – the townsfolk were successful in getting the bard back to his rightful time, ensuring that the world did not live without the amazing works that he was about to write.
No one actor outshone another, as each played their part sublimely and embraced the good fortune bestowed upon them in being part of this imaginative and daring myth of their local town’s history. We warmed to every character, resonated with some, pitied others but all in all embraced each and every cast member for their charismatic charm.
I would recommend seeing the show, it’s a wonderful evening of fun and laughter and shows Prescot’s amazing talent to the full!
Strange Tale is showing until 5th November. Tickets from www.shakespearenorthplayhouse.co.uk/event/strange-tale Prices (pay what you decide), £12, £16, £18.
Reviewer: Jan Mellor
Reviewed: 2nd November 2022
North West End UK Rating: ★★★★