You never quite know what you’re going to get when you step inside Elevator Studios and take the lift up to the fifth floor, but time and again Studio Liverpool has proved it is well worth taking a chance. Last time its in-house theatre company Trickster took over it was for a memorable Macbeth earlier in the year; this time they are presenting something a bit riskier, premiering a gothic morality play — of sorts…
A Warning Against Idle Gossip is set in the Middle Ages as the plague sweeps a fearful English village. As “the sickness” takes hold, two sides of spirituality are also at war as a schism threatens to tear apart the Church. A new play by Studio Liverpool’s writer-in-residence Michael Crowley, the first thing that hits you is the immediate clarity both of the script and performance. A simple altar transforms the bare room into a church, and it is not difficult for the audience to let imagination do the rest.
Once again Cellan Scott, a good, solid Macbeth earlier in the year, stands out in a role he plays to menacing, commanding perfection. As Sir Christopher Bampton, he is the man of the Church with a sinister dedication to Catholicism. Carl Wharton (pictured above) plays the more reasoned and doubtful deacon Thomas Wollerton, who has not exactly been living the most traditional of lives and whose Evangelical beliefs and dreams of a Church of England could seal his fate.
Throw in a desperate wife (Bronwyn Ebdon), a headstrong long lost son (David Alnwick) and a mysterious vagabond known only as Wallop (David Collins), and a war of worlds and wills threatens to tear everyone apart.
Collins provides some comic relief as the wanderer seeking sanctuary in the church and Alnwick, who can be usually seen on the variety circuit doing his comedy magic act with broad Newcastle accent showed some considerable depth as the principled, rebellious son. Ronald Meadows’s direction is tight and the soundtrack, by Katie Chatburn, sets the tone perfectly.
Once again, Trickster Theatre prove that you don’t need much to create an evocative and effective production and A Warning Against Idle Gossip is a gripping story, convincingly told. If you’ve never been, then go; Studio Liverpool is quietly producing some seriously good fringe theatre. If you’re suffering Everyman Macbeth withdrawal (as I am), then this could be the show to take the pain away.
Studio Liverpool is on Upper Parliament Street, opposite Cain’s Brewery. A Warning Against Idle Gossip runs until Saturday (July 2). For tickets and information visit their site here.