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Willy on stage at the One Night Only show. Photo credit: Mike McCartney

Alan Bleasdale on stage at the One Night Only show. Photo credit: Mike McCartney

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For One Night Only...

The Liverpool Playhouse
December 2003

Alan Bleasdale and Willy Russell shared the Liverpool Playhouse stage for an evening of comedy, readings and song. A full house enjoyed the banter between the two great Liverpool writers, who One Night Posterhave not appeared together in public for at least 10 years.

The evening was in support of the local HIV charity Sahir House and was held to help promote World Aids Day.

They both have very similar backgrounds. "Willy comes from Kirkby and I come from Huyton. We were both educational failures and only children, until Willy's parents had another child when he was 17," observes Alan, darkly adding, "and we've both got beards." Alan admitted that he has always 'hated' Willy because he has a full head of hair! Alan is mildly balding....

Both recalled that such is the two writers' inter-changeability that they are constantly being muddled up in the public mind. Sometimes they nearly get it right. Willy recalls: "I was coming out of a ward at the Royal, and a cleaner asked me 'Didn't you write Shirley Valentine?' I replied I did, and she turned to her colleague and said, 'I told you it was Alan Bleasdale!'

"One man asked me 'Are you Alan Bleasdale - or are you Bill Oddie? I've been hired for events by people thinking I was Willie Rushton, who's been dead for six years." "Actually, we're opening this show with an audience competition to decide which of us is which."

Alan, who confesses to a level of stage fright that makes him physically sick, said prior to the performance: "It will be two hours and 20 minutes of sheer terror, hopefully resembling comedy." In fact, on the evening he successfully read a selection from his collection of bizarre headings pulled from newspapers, portions from Scully and On The Ledge and easily had the audience in hysterical laughter throughout the show.

Willy read sections from Shirley Valentine, Educating Rita (with help from Alan as Frank, Rita's lecturer) and his novel Wrong Boy, including, the seasonally appropriate, Transvestite Nativity Play Scandal, starring Twinky McDevitt as the Virgin Mary. "It's different hearing a reading from a stage, it's getting a relationship with the author of a work compared to hearing it performed in a film. You use your imagination to colour the scenes."

Willy sang 'Tupperware Girls' with pantomine style back-projected lyrics and help from the audience, and singer Loretto Murray, who appears on Willy's new album HOOVERING THE MOON, joined in to perform a beautiful version of 'Easy Terms', a song from Blood Brothers, with Willy accompanying on harmonies and guitar.

A wonderful evening full of warmth and laughter, which if Alan can overcome his stage fright to the same degree as this Playhouse performance, should certainly be repeated.