In one part of the city, we’ve got the Hollywood glamour of Kim Cattrall. In the other, a low key adventure that might not have the world’s press knocking down the door but has been taken to the hearts of its audience all the same.
Anthology – that begins in the theatre then splits the audience into seven groups who are each led to unusual places to hear their allocated tale – is the brainchild of Leeds-based theatre company Slung Low. As the Everyman prepares for its complete demolition and rebuild, a chance to show it at its most creative and extraordinary was a must. Some of the best known writers associated with the theatre, including Esther Wilson, Lawrence Wilson and Lizzie Nunnery, are behind the seven stories, performed in rep by the cast also behind ‘Tis Pity She’s a Whore.
Slung Low’s relationship with the Everyman began in 2008. They worked with Fuse theatre to create their interactive theatre installation Small Wonders in Liverpool Cathedral and the Playhouse among other venues.
“Liverpool is a city that always seems to do exciting things when it comes up on our radar,” said artistic director Alan Lane. He’s clutching a strong coffee and is dressed for messing about outdoors – or wherever he may be required next. “When we started talking about the Everyman being rebuilt, we started thinking about a show that takes people out of the building. Originally I wanted to do 16 routes.”
It seems Lane likes to think big – and fast. Times change, and the work of Slung Low reflects that. “The way I see the world, and the way information is sent to me, and the way I act on that – it’s completely different to the way my mother or father does. I could be walking through Lime Street Station listening to my iPhone, picking up the headlines from the big screen, there’s a myriad of information points all the time.
“It’s unbelievable how fast information moves, and if that’s the case then I think our art forms should somehow change, otherwise we’re not reacting to things. Our relationship to information has changed, therefore the relationship to the act of being told a story has changed. Film and TV are totally different to the way they were ten years ago – now if we want to see something, we watch box sets all in one go. You don’t go to Ceefax to book a holiday anymore.”
Theatregoers are encouraged to see all seven of the Anthology stories. It’s interesting that with despite hard times both hitting punters’ pockets and the arts as a whole, the show is working well in this respect. Lane says he is surprised and pleased that “stalwart” theatre aficionados are as excited about it as the younger audience he expected.
“Everything is at risk really under the cuts, but I don’t have a plan,” he says. “Slung Low doesn’t have any money that might be cut from us, but our work is creating quite large and high profile relationships with big buildings – so for example if the Everyman suffers cuts, it can’t do things with us, and we can’t do it alone. It’s going to be tough. For now, it’s just important to keep delivering a really good night out that people are going to talk about. We’ll be looking at how we delivered this and thinking how can the next one be better.”
For now, his faith and hope lie in the audience of Anthology, and there’s something genuinely appealing about Slung Low’s regard for the people who make the effort.
“You’ve got no idea what you’re going to do, you’re not sure whether it’s going to rain, you’ve just been told it’s going to be fun,” Lane says. “Those people who turn up at 7.30 for each performance are gods. How much do you have to love being told a story to say, ‘I’m not going to stay in the warm and watch CSI, I’m going to go out’ – I want to hug them. I’m not sure I’d do it,” he grins.
“We meet every member of our audience. That they turn up to do this – that’s the success story, and I wish we could talk about that more. They have been brilliant. Last night we led 104 people on a walk around Liverpool in the cold.”
He grins again. “I’d like to see David Cameron try and do that.”