Red Ladder Theatre Company,
Royal Court, Liverpool
October 1-23, 2021; 2hrs 30min
PIES have been baking their way into the national cultural consciousness since the nursery rhyme encounter between Simple Simon and the pieman, through vernacular songs (I’m from Wigan me/We eat pies for tea), and even the pie-in-the-face world of slapstick.
And who could ever forget Mrs Lovett’s pie shop in Sweeney Todd, in which the demon barber’s former lover encrusted the gizzards of his victims?
Now here's an entire show dedicated to pies (and loaves) as symbols of the rise… and rise… of community activism, and the quest to find enough dough to get lasting results.
It’s the real story of a landmark bakery in the crossover cradle of Liverpool’s Red/Blue soccerland, once threatened with demolition but going on to score a home-win in extra time.
The council wanted to proceed by way of bulldozer and wrecking ball, ignorant (as they often are) that the old terraced housing estates remain the embodiment of still-thriving communities.
Thus local residents determinedly said no to the lie of regeneration as envisaged by municipal pen-pushers. Gradually, the saving of a single corner shop became the salvation of a whole street and then an entire neighbourhood. Such is the home-made recipe for revival.
More than enough material – both socially and politically – for writer/composer Boff Whalley to put together a high-octane entertainment, full of instantly singable narrative songs, backed by a 20-strong community choir.
The cast is also in sufficiently convincing melodic voice – not least Pauline Daniels, veteran of Chicago, Gypsy and more, playing chief protagonist, Annie.
Paul Broughton as Frank, a part-time loafer (sorry) turned fast-track master-baker, is the other mainstay of director Rod Dixon’s delightfully Scouse-grounded company, which includes, by way of indulgence, an almost cobweb-ridden cameo of an old Liverpool matriarch from Eithne Browne.
The outsider – all the way from Widnes – is chirpy Dylan (George Caple), aided and abetted by Astrid (Steph Lacey), a German conceptual artist who offers, yeast we forget, a tinge of madcap humour.
But there remains a core lesson in the value of fundamental and inspirational direct community action, especially in this age of tinned-up high streets, further beleaguered by astronomical rents and crippling business rates.
More info and tickets here