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.