There’s hardly any more needs to be said about this show, as it’s been written about and promoted extensively over the last few months and the Royal Court insists only single seats are available for the last few shows anyway, so here’s a quickie.
Writer Fred Lawless has always produced particularly good work for the Royal Court stage, and Scouse Pacific proved no exception, his quick-witted, pacey script enhanced by an enthusiastic, seasoned cast. Voices were straining a little bit in parts – but with a lot of singing to do, and two extensions on the original run that began in November (!), it’s clear they’ve been working hard. If anything, they elevate the script they have to work with. In the style of Lawless’s first Christmas show last year, Merry Ding Dong, Scouse Pacific was a musical of sorts, with lots of well known pop songs re-written with some pretty clever lyric changes to help set the scene and move the plot along.
It begins with Father O’Flaherty (Alan Stocks, in fine form), the drunken priest from Merry Ding Dong (nice touch), banished to the South Pacific island of Secosu with a bunch of gambling nuns. There, he finds a family of Scousers, who have never set foot off the island. How did they get there? What is going on? It is fun finding out.
The first half does go for a real shoehorning of that proper Scouse playing to the gallery I was talking about, and personally, I always find that can be a bit much. But I did like the way Lawless played with the token S*n gag – by using it as toilet paper. It was actually more subtle than others in the past. The closing of the first act, with its frenetic version of Bohemian Rhapsody, though, was superb, as was the closing number in the wake of a volcano eruption – Lava’s in the Air. Geddit?? There’s a wealth of brilliantly godawful gags in this show that just charm the show into submission.
There are many of the usual faces among the cast but standing head and shoulders above is Rachel Rae, as curious teenager Donna-Marie. Where would she rather be? Why, Childwall Valley High, natch (it was a good enough rhyme for her parody of Bali Hai, after all). What do they do in Liverpool at this time of year, she keenly asks Father O’Flaherty. “They go and see substandard theatre just to get pissed and sit in the warm,” he explains, getting a big laugh in the process. Andrew Schofield, so often seen in these type of comedies but usually in a competently non-descript sort of way, brings charm, laughs, and physicality to the role of Donna-Marie’s dad Terry, and as always, Linzi Germain is just a gem as his wife.
Scouse Pacific laid the parochiality on thick, unlike Merry Ding Dong which had a much wider appeal. That’s not always a turn on. But there was enough wit, good humour, all the season’s goodwill we could still reasonably muster, and particularly good performances this time to make it all work.
Picture by Dave Evans. Scouse Pacific runs at the Royal Court until this Saturday, January 22 (and then that’s it).