Thursday, August 18

The Liver Bird – Shakespeare North Playhouse

What if the Liver Bird really did exist? Charlie J (Tom Browning) has heard all about Liverpool’s famous Birds from his Grandma’s (Samantha Alton) stories but are they real? Has anybody seen one fly? When things start to get difficult at school and just when he needs it most, Charlie is visited by a very special creature…

Shakespeare North Playhouse’s Sir Ken Dodd Performance Garden is well and truly brought alive by this enchanting modern-day fairy-tale from writer John Maguire, adapted here for stage by Jessica Mae Buxton of The Bookworm Players and directed by Margaret Connell.

Using the simplest of sets, our two talented actors bring all of their skills to the fore through mesmerising performances with mime and puppetry added in for good measure. There is a high level of interaction with the audience in a relaxed way with no one put on the spot except the football.

Having read the book, I enjoyed how the lyrical and poetical quality of the words had been carried through and the use of repetition makes this something that works particularly well for children. Applause is often the measure of sorts of a good performance but the added layer here was that of children’s laughter throughout: when you hear that then you know you’ve nailed it.

There are many interweaved layers to this piece that touches upon the fabled fantasy of the Liver Birds as well as the magical with further historical references to the foundation of the city extending to cultural references including the kind of Scouse that you won’t necessarily find on Matthew Street.

Coming in at around an hour, this is a piece I can see playing well at local schools where its subject matter provides an immediate resonance for a young audience but also so much more as it touches upon family relationships, generational differences, the importance of reading and the power of the imagination. In a world beset with bedlam this is a gentle piece that packs a punch of its own that will land deservedly well in inspiring the next generation to believe in their own miracles.

ArtsGroupie CIC is a community interest company that is promoting and providing access to the arts in the North West and beyond through the development of touring theatre and music productions, educational workshops and heritage conservation projects. Further details https://www.artsgroupie.org/

Shakespeare North Playhouse in Prescot is a brand-new theatre for the North with bags of history and loads of ambition. Further details https://shakespearenorthplayhouse.co.uk/

The Liver Bird plays at Shakespeare north Playhouse through to 24th July with ticket prices starting from £3 on a ‘Pay What You Decide’ basis which places the power in your hands to pay more if you feel the production is worth it.

Reviewer: Mark Davoren

Reviewed: 23rd July 2022

North West End UK Rating: ★★★★

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