Liverpool Everyman Theatre
September 17- October 9, 2021; run time 2hrs 20m
Location, location, location. For those visiting from beyond the drone of a Scouse accent, it’s important to realise that Blundellsands does actually exist.
It’s a once universally posh and ultra-Conservative north Liverpool suburb where, until the 1950s, grand houses with turrets and "grounds" rather than mere gardens, some even with live-in servants, looked out to sea and the shipping lanes that carried their mercantile wealth.
Today, its water’s edge fame (almost always attributed to adjacent, better-known Crosby) is home to Antony Gormley’s 100 iron statues, known collectively as Another Place.
Once landward of the tide-line, Blundellsands is today mostly another place, with mansions turned into flats, a vast infusion of new-build housing, and Labour councillors (and an MP). Some would argue, a shudder of its former self.
Writer Jonathan Harvey seizes on the still constant maelstrom of change (but set circa late 1970s) to provide the crucible for a family reckoning spliced with sentimental memories and harsh new realities in this revival of a pre-lockdown production (with three cast changes), directed by Nick Bagnall.
Josie Lawrence remains as the fulcrum character of Sylvie, a delusional and coquettish mother of two boys, still fuelled by early success as a bit-part television actor and now running an even more insignificant radio station from her living room.
One son, Mickey-Joe (Mickey Jones) is a drag artist, who brings along his former gay lover turned resentful agent Frankie (Nana Amoo-Gotfried). The other is lad-about-town Lee Lee (Nathan McMullen) with his girlfriend Alyssa (Gemma Broderick).
All are together for the birthday party of Sylvie’s elder sister, Garnet (Joanne Howarth), who so far has indulged her sibling’s wacky neurosis, but now has a devastating revelation of her own.
What starts out as a fairly convivial reunion ends up as a cupboard full of rattling skeletons.
Sometimes the mood is meandering and repetitive in confirming certain personality traits, and loses focus despite fairly sustained physical momentum and a measure of comic relief. But there is the resulting risk of muddle, rather than clear definition.
The central message is clear enough, though: a once integrated family which is now falling apart.
They pay the inevitable price for tolerating pretence and avoiding the truth over so many years, and have ended up paying dearly for living in the Land That Was.
Info and tickets here