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Review: Scouse of the Antarctic/Royal Court

'The perfect Christmas night out to put a spring in your step', says Mike Chapple

Written by . Published on November 29th 2014.


Review: Scouse of the Antarctic/Royal Court
 

"IF ain't broke, don't fix it!", goes the old adage.

It's a principal that writer Fred Lawless has followed with more than a fair degree of success at the Court in the past few years when supplying their annual Christmas shows.

The game plan was to write Liverpool plays/pantos/musicals, sprinkle them with Scousers - but not set them here.

It started off four years ago in Scouse Pacific, with scally castaway Andrew Schofield surrounded by a sea of innuendo, ad-libs and punny songs relating to the original musical (Childwall Valley High - geddit?), and daft jokes in which the punch lines could be seen a mile away. 

On paper, it sounds downright bloody torture. 

But, in reality, it was a bloody brilliant comedy gem and this critic fondly remembers tripping into the chill night air feeling almost, albeit unnaturally, festive.

The principle has been tweaked by Mr Lawless in the subsequent years - Little Scouse On The Prairie etc - although, it has to be said,  with mixed receptions.

This year, however, he's back on top form.

Sota 12Pictures by Dave Evans

Court regular Michael Starke plays Jimmy who's retreated to the icy wastes to escape from awful students and their awful bangin' tunes in the wilds of Wavertree. 

Keeping him company are a couple of randy, talking polar bears Jason and Kylie (Michael Ledwich and Helen Carter) and a foul-mouthed Paul O'Grady soundalike Frosty the Snowman (as Himself).

Jimmy's idyll, however, is ruptured by the arrival of a dreaded student Daisy (Hayley Hampson) plus US and Russian nuclear subs - appropriately named USS Enterprise and Pontempkin.

Manned by gung-ho Yank Brad (John McGrellis) and bolshy Bolshevic Olga  (Lindzi Germain) respectively, they compete to claim Jimmy's territory in an Ice Station Zebra styled face-off. 

They are aided by a shared one-man crew of Michael Fletcher, who alternates between nationalities as Kowalski and Bolokov.

This apparent shortage in cast members is explained thus: George Clooney, who was to play Bolokov, has been delayed due to a prior engagement singing karaoke at the Penny Farthing.  Later, his continued non-appearance is put down to the fact that he's been spotted pissed-up noshing in The Lobster Pot chippy.

This, of course, is complete tosh yet typical of the ridiculous and surreal, often localised, humour of these productions which make them so entertaining.

It's not always to everyone's palate, though.

In Lawless's Hitchhiker's Guide To Fazakerley last year,  a car is flown to another planet.

As the author explains: "Not everyone appreciates such a journey, so may I take this opportunity to apologise to the one person who wrote to me after the show explaining to me that it's impossible for a 1966 Ford Anglia to fly to Venus.”

If you were that person, or have a similar sensible views about life, then it's safe to say Scouse of the A is not for you. Otherwise, you should embrace its sense of the ridiculous wholeheartedly as it's the perfect Christmas night out to put a spring in your step.  

 

Sota 1

The cast and the excellent sombrero-clad house band (Ross Higginson, Jack Hymers, Emily Linden, Alex Smith) duly looked like they were genuinely having a gas, a feeling that proved infectious to a packed press night audience.

 

And at least a couple of set pieces in the first hour had the place in uproar.

Starke's (very good) impersonations, complete with paper heads, of Our Cilla, The Fabs, John Bishop, and Doddy ("What a day missus, what a day, for shoving ice cubes up the ma-in-law's bra and saying how's that for a chest freezer.") was one.

Ledwich and Carter's non-erotic take on Torville and Dean's Bear-er-o was another (it would be unfair to say more, but the clue is in the spelling).

The aforementioned Starke especially - like Schofield before him - has become a home town front man favourite. 

Versatile in every department, and surprisingly nimble for someone who looks like a Watney's Party Ninety-Seven squeezed into an Hawaiian shirt, he's left the solitary memory of just being renowned as the hapless Sinbad in Brookside far behind him.

Lindzi Germain, too, has also become a big home town fave.

With her booming voice and  Dr Evil laugh, Lindzi - who was also a mainstay in Scouse Pacific -  bestrides the stage as a leather-bound, goose- stepping Ruski colossus, Kalashnikov akimbo.

It seems unfair, though, to single out just these two as this was a great team effort from a small, tight knit cast.

Brought together by director Howard Gray who's worked with Lawless as musical director on all his other shows, he seems to know by now what works with lots of nifty little  touches.

So look closely for Frosty the Snowman's illegitimate polar bear with carrot nose, the chorus of in-vogue penguins, the shark periodically grinning through the ice in Richard Foxton's ingenious set design  and the "Not Yeti!" running joke that brought chuckles throughout.

Only one misgiving is a second half, wishy-washy (sorry about reverting to panto speak ) with perhaps a suspend-your-disbelief-moment- too-many and too-obvious song choices (Foreigner's Cold As Ice anyone? No, I thought not!).

But maybe this is being a bit churlish given the musical highlight near the end, the ballad Like Snow written by Lawless and son Mike, sung exquisitely by Hampson and Fletcher.

It put the Sammy the Seal on another great night out at the Court.

Now, as Frosty did say: "Stop blathering and get the effing ale in!"

9/ 10 

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Peter Coyle

i wish i had been there…it sounds like something joyous and anarchic...the way the article is…

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Anonymous

Couldn't agree more. This is a super piece. Ken would be proud that not a penny of public money was…

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The review was indeed brilliant - congratulations Angie. The show must have been very special -…

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Claudia Boulton

Thanks Angie for your brilliant piece, so glad you wrote it! Now i know what was going on! Being in…

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