At the end of a challenging but solid cultural year for Liverpool, Laura Davis announces the winners of the annual Liverpool Post Arts Awards
AT THE end of a challenging but solid cultural year for Liverpool, Laura Davis announces the winners of the annual Liverpool Post Arts Awards
IT TAKES a masterful sleight of hand to produce Alan Ayckbourn’s The Norman Conquests – a trilogy of plays staged one after the other but which, in the script at least, take place all at the same time. At the Liverpool Playhouse, the cast handled big gear changes from verbal comedy to farce and into pathos on an atmospheric set which spun round between each act, offering teasing glimpses of the other rooms’ activities.
GIVEN the current climate, it’s impressive to see actors putting on their own productions rather than waiting around for work. However, Life in the Theatre’s production of David Mamet’s off-Broadway musical The Last 5 Years does not win this award for determination but for excellence. The multi-skilled Stephen Fletcher and Helen Carter made us smile, laugh and even shed a tear as the New York couple whose relationship is doomed to fail – accompanied on the Actors Studio stage by Nick Phillips on piano.
TO BE honest, we expected I Dreamed a Dream to be a cynical ploy to spin a bit of cash out of the story of Britain’s Got Talent voice of an angel Susan Boyle. Instead, it was made up of all the key ingredients for a great musical – a heartwarming rags to riches story, a strong score and a belting performance from Rab C Nesbitt star Elaine C Smith in the star role – with Boyle herself even putting in an appearance on the Liverpool Empire stage.
WE’VE seen a lot of Les Dennis on the Liverpool stage over the past few years but no part has played to his strengths as much as the title role of Tony Staveacre’s Jigsy. His immaculate comic timing, ability to warm up a crowd within seconds of arriving on stage and his experience as a stand-up and impressionist all enabled him to bring to life the faded comic with a big personality based on Liverpool’s Jackie Hamilton.
LAST year, we praised this category’s winner for her diversity in Jonathan Harvey’s Corrie! at the Empire and The Rise of Arturo Ui at the Liverpool Playhouse. Her performance in the Williamson Square theatre’s Studio space – in the world premiere of Frank McGuinness’s The Match Box – is one that we’ll remember forever and wins Leanne Best this award for the second year running. Alone on stage as grieving mother Sal, she was a constantly shifting personality from whom it was impossible to draw away. Captivating and devastating.
WHILE much praise for the success of the UK tour of Swallows and Amazons should go to its Liverpool-born adapter Helen Edmundson and the Divine Comedy’s Neil Hannon for the songs, it was its ingenious staging that made this play something really special. Director Tom Morris used simple props and the audience’s imaginations to conjure the story, while ensuring his grown-up cast were entirely believable as the adventurous children – even the 6ft 4 seven-year-old.
KATIE SCOTT’S design for Held at the Playhouse Studio transported the lyricism of Joe Ward Munroe’s script into the physical realm with a huge armchair apparently erupting with tendrils of brain matter that stretched their way across the ceiling. Here, Alzheimer’s patient Mary sat, the chair’s synapses crackling as she struggles to piece together her past.
IT’S a win for Matthew Bourne for the second year running – this time for his version of the Nutcracker at the Empire. Set in a Victorian orphanage, with splashes of colour contrasting against the grey, it was like a moving painting. With clear storytelling and adventurous choreography, Bourne created yet another show that proves dance is for everyone.
THE Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra is gaining a strong reputation for commissioning new works. Our highlight of this year was Sir Peter Maxwell Davies’s Ninth Symphony – a real tour de force when combined with the Beethoven Choral Symphony in the same concert on Hope Street, and equally well received by the Royal Albert Hall audience during the Phil’s excellent Proms concert.
IT WAS Florence and the Machine’s penultimate show of the tour yet the flamed-haired siren showed no sign of wearying at the Echo Arena as she threw herself into an exuberant set of big songs, matched by her melodramatic stage presence and (slightly bonkers) banter.
BEST JAZZ/ ROOTS
MORE used to playing smoky Louisiana bars than the splendour of an art deco music hall, the Pine Leaf Boys nonetheless brought the house down on their visit to Liverpool. With charisma to match their musical talent. they performed a mixture of cajun, zydeco and rock ’n’ roll and, ultimately, even some members of the rather reserved Philharmonic Hall audience felt compelled to join them on stage for a dance.
THIS year we’re giving this award to two exhibitions – to Tate Liverpool’s Monet Turner Twombly exhibition for shedding new light on a pair of extremely well-known artists by juxtaposing them with US painter Cy Twombly (and for the incredible experience of standing in front of five different water lily paintings) and the Walker Art Gallery’s Can You Tell What it is Yet?, which struck a careful balance between Rolf Harris’s personas as a colourful TV presenter and a talented Impressionist painter, while attracting a new audience to the gallery.
ROYAL de Luxe’s giants wooed an entire city when they spent three days in Liverpool playing out an incredible piece of street theatre based on the Titanic disaster. Some 800,000 people witnessed the 23-mile emotional and physical journey of the Little Girl Giant, her pet dog Xolo and her uncle, which embraced the more deprived area of north Liverpool as well as the regenerated city centre. An all-encompassing example of culture’s power to engage and inspire.
IT’S hard to put this winner in a single category – is it art, theatre, documentary? – so we’ve created an award especially for it. Part of the Liverpool Biennial contemporary art festival, the Anfield Home Tour used the residents’ experiences to tell the story of housing in the area on a bus tour. Written by novelist Deborah Morgan and theatre maker Britt Jurgensen, it was full of cheeky Scouse humour, lump in the throat moments, tea and cake, while making a serious political point. It should be compulsory for all local politicians – heck, it should be compulsory for everyone.
THE awards were chosen by a judging panel that included: Laura Davis, Peter Elson, Lorna Hughes, and Glyn Mon Hughes.