Liverpool’s Empire Theatre was buzzing with its mostly female audience and the giddiness that surrounded them. Groups of friends, generations of families and a few famous faces were all in the mix and once the lights went down in the auditorium that was cue enough for the cheering to start.
All of the characters that are known and loved in the film version were indeed introduced to us on stage and each actor/actress undoubtedly captured the souls of the characters they were portraying. The six main characters who inevitably become the strippers in the story were cast brilliantly. Gary Lucy who played Gaz and Fraser Kelly who played his son, Nathan, portrayed a fantastic relationship that helped to drive the general story and bring you on board with Gaz’s trials and tribulations - a man just trying to get by and do right by his son. His best mate in the form of Dave, played by Kai Owen was the lovable character. Dealing with his own body image issues and depicting a real (out of work) working man of the time. The quirky character of Guy, played by James Redmond and the previously suicidal Lomper played by Joe Gill were particularly interesting to watch, especially in scenes together when both actors showed their more vulnerable sides and their individuality. Louis Emerick who played Horse seemed to get an even warmer reception from the audience, possibly due to his obvious connection to Liverpool, but also his humorous character depiction.
The stand out performance for me was the character Gerald, played by Andrew Dunn. The accent, the naturalistic style of his performance and the sheer characterisation he brings to his performance in a realistic manner is fantastic to watch, almost as if you’re watching him on screen.
Scene transitions were seamless and the company as a collective were faultless in their collaboration. A simple set which became many a setting in the play was admirable and the way in which all performers interacted with it was effortless.
It must be said, that the play felt like it was trying to be an almost carbon copy of the film and I think it is down to personal preference as to whether that is a good thing or not. Personally, I think some scenes could have been adapted a little further to accommodate them for the stage as some of the more iconic scenes from the film were not executed as convincingly as I would have expected. However, most of the audience didn’t seem to mind. In fact, I got the impression that for most, being able to pre-empt certain scenes and scenarios was part of the appeal and this was reflected through the laughter that came before particular moments had actually happened.
I found myself smiling and giggling at the audience’s involvement and the screaming and excitement that spread around the theatre as the show edged closer to the final scenes. The audience absolutely played their role in becoming the women at the pub where the final ‘strip scene’ is held and it was a clever transition from us watching them ‘back stage’ before their act, to actually watching their performance on the other side as if we were the crowd it was intended for. The dancing was excellent (as it was throughout the show) and all six actors were incredibly entertaining.
Of course, the big question is….do they or don’t they? I couldn’t possibly comment. All I will say is. . . hats off to all involved on a highly entertaining spectacle. The standing ovation was most definitely deserved.
Reviewer: Sara Starkey
Reviewed: 18th March 2019
North West End Rating: ★★★★