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Slappers and Slapheads (Royal Court)

Vinnie Lawrenson Woods watches as cast's hard graft turns around Grafton-style tale of “copping off”.

Published on February 11th 2009.

Slappers and Slapheads (Royal Court)

THE Grafton may be gone forever, but, just like Pete Price’s jokes, that old familiar feeling is never far away in the new run of Slappers and Slapheads.

After its previous outings in 2003 and 2004, Fred Lawless and Len Pentin’s comic play about copping off in Liverpool returns to The Royal Court.

Directed by Bob Eaton, Slappers and Slapheads is set in the infamous Park Palace disco and follows the fortunes of two groups of friends, both out on the pull.

And Price sets the evening in motion with one of his live appearances as the club's DJ. Although skilled at working an audience his lines were as old as the setting.

The story follows the fortunes of two unlikely lads in their regular hangout on a Friday night.

Liverpool musician and actor Mike Neary returns to the show as Billy, the vacant and vertically challenged hospital porter, with verve and great comic timing.

Warren Donnelly (from Shameless) plays best mate Chris, a man with apparent good fortune hiding a darker secret. Adding to the mix, Alan Stocks doubles up as identical twins Barry and Gary, one benign and gentle, the other crazy and violent, adding moments of farce to the proceedings.

While the boys were not doubt having fun on stage, the trio of women friends stole almost every scene. All mouth and cleavage, Donna was played with pulling-power and humour by Gillian Hardie. Helen Carter (last seen in Once Upon a Time at the Adelphi) exudes empathy as the heavily pregnant Sue looking for the father of her child.

Keddy Sutton took the show to another level with her portrayal of straight-laced Elaine in a Chaplinesque performance. She joined fellow members of kitsch jazz choir A Handbag of Harmonies, made famous by BBC1’s Last Choir Standing, for a few songs after the show.

An excellent revolving set and well chosen music clips help set the atmosphere, but the first half of the show was predictable and couldn’t be saved by updated references to iPhones and Superlambananas.

The second half improved as it left some of the heavy handed Liverpoolisms behind and attempted to pose real questions about death, friendship, love and companionship.

Getting as far as Fazakerley will never have the same meaning again after the clever use of the Liverpool to Kirkby bus route as a euphemism for sexual staying power. The ‘It’s Raining Men’ dream scene was also a good choice but there many things that just didn’t work, Chris’s “Barbie Doll’ solo for one.

In spite of the average and, in-the-main, predictable script, the cast's energy and determination turned this show around, and in the end their bravado and comic one-liners pointed to a heart-felt conclusion that left everyone feeling empathy and compassion for the main characters.


*Slappers and Slapheads, until Friday March 7, Royal Court, Roe Street, Liverpool 1.

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MikeFebruary 11th 2009.

I attended the press night and like the earlier poster I too after seeing the title wondered if it was gong to be a 'tits & bums' show, I was however pleasantly surprised and in fact I've got to say this was probably the funniest play I've seen at a Liverpool theatre in a long long time (& I have seen quite a few!). As for the reviewer's accusation of predictability, if he could predict that act 1 would end in such a dramatic way then he probably lies about other things also. I particularly liked the way act 2 opened, how many dramatists when faced with a scene in which a man explains to his best friend he's dying and wants to take his own life could manage to make their audience feel for the plight of the characters yet still make them laugh? In theory that shouldn't work but it did, and anyone who didn't laugh at the Les Dennis gag in that scene really needs to go get a sense of humour transplant! Again, re 'predictability', did anyone else suss out that the lead slapper's reason for going to the club each week wasn't for casual sex but was in fact to get away from a violent husband? And ok maybe the ending was a bit twee in getting the 2 main characters to fall in love, but it's a comedy, and as such you have to fulfil audiences expectations and comedy audiences invariably want feel good endings. My advice to the writer is change the title, cut out any obvious scouse references and next time put it on at the Empire. Judging by the audience reaction on the night there will be a lot of word of mouth recommendations for this show and next time round you might need a bigger theatre!

AlexFebruary 11th 2009.

Encouraged by half a dozen enjoyable visits to the Royal Court last year, and seeing that this had been staged 3 times before, I saw the opening night of this play.I feel your description of the first act as 'predictable' was generous. 'Crap' would be my chosen adjective and I would happily have left at half time.The highlights were few and far between. As stated, the 'It's Raining Men' routine was good, and the helium gag was good too. There was little else, with the 'gag' about how to tell apart the identical twins being a great example of how not to write 'comedy'.

Gagging for itFebruary 11th 2009.

To be honest, it sounded **** to me as well, just by the title, which is why I refused the kind offer of a free ticket off my mate the other night. Her told me that all the usual orange faced arse licking mates of Pete Price has, however, piled in to fill their boots. They'll have loved it, no doubt.

Nein Nein Nein!February 11th 2009.

Is that gentleman doing research into lap dancing (or line dancing)classes in order to clear his name?

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