Some of you may be surprised to hear that I did leave the house several times during 2021, and was even able to take in some live theatre – no mean feat, considering that for a big chunk of last year, gathering in a poorly-ventiliated auditorium was a no-no.
Y’MAM (Young Man’s Angry Movements) (Liverpool Everyman)
Former Hollyoaks cast member Luke Jerdy (or his real name, Majid Mehdizadeh) put on this brutally honest one-man show, talking about his life growing up as a half-Iranian teenager in Derby, and the pressures placed on him by toxic masculinity and the expectations of society. Tales from his life were punctuated by dance, rap and a hilarious segment where when he read out a pompous, self-important email that he sent to the manager of the Everyman theatre when the bar closed early and he couldn’t get a drink.
Our Lady of Blundellsands (Liverpool Everyman)
This new Jonathan Harvey play was running at the Everyman in March 2020, when the world got Rona’d, so it was great to see it return in the Autumn of 2021. The tale of a faded actress, whose brief burst of fame (an appearance in Z-Cars) is long behind her, and she now inhabits a fantasy world, supported by her long-suffering sister. Various family members return for a birthday party, and skeletons start tumbling out of closets. A fabulous cast led by the peerless Josie Lawrence brought this story of a dysfunctional Merseyside family to life. There are plenty of laugh out loud moments interspersed with genuinely affecting moments of pathos.
Rainbow Monologues (Liverpool Theatre Festival)
Sitting in a marquee in St Lukes (the Bombed-Out Church), surrounded by the noise of the city, was perhaps not the best way to enjoy some theatre. Nevertheless, this set of LGBTQ-themed monologues – 12 performed over the space of 70 minutes – was excellent. Taylor Illingworth in particular gave an affecting performance in his monologue “Blocking out the Sun”, the heartbreaking story of an HIV-positive man coming out to his family.
Swan Song (Unity Theatre)
It’s that man Jonathan Harvey again, this time with a one-man show about a middle-aged gay teacher who is struggling with life at an underfunded secondary school. Andrew Lancel played the teacher, with cynicism and world-weariness hanging off every line of dialogue, as he juggles office politics and the politics of the 1990s. Wonderful stuff.
Hold Me Close (Salford Arts Theatre)
A tale of a mother reunited with her son, who returns to the family home after an extended period away. The play follows them as they get to know one another again. Very entertaining, alternating between comedy and drama, although the twist at the end that perhaps wasn’t as big a surprise as the show thought it was. The real unexpected moment came when the seats in front of us collapsed beneath an unfortunate audience member, sending him crashing to the ground.
Rajesh and Naresh (Unity Theatre)
Presented as part of Liverpool’s annual Homotopia festival, this story is set against the background of India’s decriminilisation of homosexuality in 2018. Rajesh, a banker in London, travels to India where he meets Naresh in a nightclub. They quickly strike up a relationship but of course things don’t go smoothly, especially as Rajesh isn’t out to his mother. Brahmdeo Shannon Ramana and Madhav Vasantha not only play Rajesh and Naresh, but also take on all of the other roles in the play too, leading to a unique experience. This was an excellent show, and I felt like I should have paid more than £8 for the ticket.
Thanks to my friend Phillip who came to most of these shows with me, and without whom I would probably have stayed at home.