Kitty Queen of the Washhouse, written by John Maguire and directed by Margaret Connell, is a one woman show telling the story of Kitty Wilkinson, the saint of the Liverpool slums.
She lived through poverty, loss and hardship, but her generous spirit meant that she never turned away anyone in need and her determination to help people made her a cherished pillar of the community.
Kitty Wilkinson is the only woman commemorated with a statue in St George’s Hall, and this was the stunning venue where Samantha Alton, covered with a layer of chalk white make up, literally breathed life into the marble portrayal of the Queen of the Washhouse.
Sheets draped around the set subtly reminded the audience that this was the story of a woman who had passed on, while also creating a nice background for the washhouse elements of the story. The use of simple props provided touches of colour which brought the tale to life.
Photographs projected onto the sheets enriched the piece by showing the audience the reality of Kitty’s world. Unfortunately there were some occasions where these projections were hidden by set pieces or props which had been left in front of them and if the piece is performed again consideration should be giving to the blocking of these elements to make full use of all of the elements of this multi layered performance.
Lighting was cleverly used to create weather and reflect changes in mood. The lighting used to represent the storm which sank the ship on which Kitty travelled to Liverpool from Derry as a child was particularly effective. Alton’s physical acting deserves particular praise at this point. The audience were truly immersed in the violence of the ship rocking and breaking through her movement, and the stillness which followed was breathtaking.
Alton also used subtle changes in her voice to portray different characters in the story. A technique often used in one actor shows, her ability to change her accent and tone was particularly excellent.
Combining cheeky wit, steely determination and perceptive insights into the world around her, Alton takes you by the hand and leads you through the highs and lows of the extraordinary life of an ordinary woman. This is a powerful piece of drama which fully deserved the standing ovation it received.
Kitty Queen of the Washhouse was produced by ArtsGroupie CIC, a Liverpool based Production Company who promote accessibility and education through the arts. You can find out more on their Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/ArtsGroupie/
Reviewer: Donna M Day
Reviewed: 16th March 2019
North West End Rating: ★★★★