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The Reviews


A Comedy Classic
There are people who reckon remakes are never as good as the originals. Last night at the Liverpool Playhouse, they were proved wrong.

Willy Russell's comedy Stags and Hens about girls and boys at a night out before a wedding, was extremely funny at the Liverpool Everyman a few years' back.

Last night the Playhouse turned it into a comedy classic. This was due to the superb cast which made the humour come across directly with some realism. The dialogue sparkled with its common but witty lines.

The set designed by Ellen Cairns allowed the 12-strong cast to parade their talents to their full extent, with Andrew Schofield's Billy and Mia Soteriou's Maureen particularly amusing.

Director Pip Broughton is able to turn Russell's play into a slice of reality that continually amuses, and makes this drama something that must touch every member of the audience.

It is in this way that the production continually appeals and should ensure the Playhouse ending their season with a smash hit.



Stags and Hens
Willy Russell's Stags and Hens is a magnificently vulgar assault on the threadbare idyll of young love and marriage - first performed at the Everyman Theatre in 1979, now revived in an even sharper production at Liverpool Playhouse.

An engaged couple unwittingly roll up at the same seedy club for their stag hen parties. The action takes place in the toilets - yellowing urinals and condom machines on one side of Ellen Cairn's lovingly-detailed set, cubicles and tampon machines on the other.

"love is blind, marriage is an institution - who wants to live in an institution for the blind?" Some of Russell's jokes are a bit hoary, and you occasionally get the feeling that he fills a notebook with club gems, then cobbles a comedy together around them. But he's also accurate and affectionate, with occasional wonderfully surrealistic flights of fancy, improbably triggered off by tedious surburban paraphernalia like the accoutrements the couple is supposed to need for the simple business of coffee-making.

He's also strikingly visual: the tatty toilets, the girls in their glad-rags - Frances stretched out on the toilet floor to fasten her canary yellow pedal pushers over her bulging paunch; Bernadette in a scarlet sequin boob-tube stopping the gaping ladders in her black stockings with nail varnish, and the men carrying in the wholy-faced, unconscious groom to be, traces of an unfortunate chicken curry dinner all over his trousers. The final orgiastic tableau on the stairs is gorgeous.



Willy Russell had a great hit in Dublin with his musical Blood Brothers and in the Focus Theatre next Monday another of his works will be premiered. Stags and Hens is a play based on a potentially explosive situation.

"Ey … wouldn't it be awful if the fellas turned up as well?" The girls are out for a hen party at the local disco and wonder where the lads are having the stag party. The same place would you believe.
This classic little play is a very funny look at the whys and wherefores of love, lust and marriage and is peppered with the brand of Liverpudlian wit which endeared Blood Brothers to Dublin audiences.

The director is Ronan Wilmot and the talented young cast includes Liz Brogan, Janyne Snow, Robbie Bowman, Joe Campbell and Mal White. Looks like just the formula to raise us from the deep winter blues.



Vacant or Engaged?
If you enjoyed the clever wit and frank humour of 'Educating Rita', you are certain to giggle your way through 'Stags and Hens' also written by Willy Russell currently showing at the Nottingham Playhouse. He has this wonderful knack of creating real characters and presenting them in real situations.

Dave and Linda are getting married. The night before the big day, the y spend their stag and hen nights coincidentally at the same local dance hall in Liverpool. The setting is the ladies and gents toilets - what better or more obvious a place for a good gossip and the release of those pent up frustrations and thoughts on 'the other sex',(as well as touching up the war paint and satisfying your ego by writing your name on the already well graffitied walls). After all it's the only escape from the confines of a noisy and crowded bar and dance-floor where the real pressure is on to 'tap off'.

All manner of emotions and questions are raised ranging from - 'What is having a good time.. does marriage really result in being made up' (that's Liverpudlian for being happy or satisfied) to - 'What are we doing, who make the rules and where are we going - Anywhere or nowhere?'

Dave unfortunately doesn't get involved he's too busy throwing-up in the toilets - he spends most of the performance there (Nigel Betts must take credit for patience). However, the others except Eddie (he makes all these meaningful and deeply serious comments) are raring to go - Robbie's already found a bird - was she Madonna or was it Maradonna?

Meanwhile Linda has shut herself in the ladies cubicle agonising over her last night of freedom. 'It's only natural, nerves' says Bernie her girlfriend. It's too late anyway to change your mind; Maureen can't take the barbeque chairs back (that's her wedding present to a couple who are starting out in a block of flats)… and if that isn't reason - you don't back out of the chance to have your own place, hoover and all.

The play has the same sort of attraction as TV soap operas (that's why I think so many students might enjoy it). Simon O'Brien, well known to television viewers as 'Damon Grant' in Channel 4's 'Brookside' makes his first professional theatre appearance as 'Kav' - without a slip.

However I think the last word must be in praise of Marie Jelliman (Bernie) whose voice projection, facial expressions and enthusiasm is terrific especially her convincing imitations of a girl adjusting herself at a mirror.

If you're planning to spend an evening 'on the town', think again - it's two for the price of one for students on Mondays at the Playhouse and this play guarantees more than a few laughs.