Haunted Scouse

Some may describe a visit to Liverpool’s Royal Court as crass and somewhat predictable, which it is, but so often for all the right reasons!

Haunted Scouse (penned by Gerry Linford with direction from Emma Bird) has arrived just in time for Valentine’s season but rather than concentrate on the classic x meets y and falls in love narrative, this ‘Ghost’ inspired comedy focuses on the journey from life to limbo and beyond. The one-year anniversary of Charlie Moon’s (Michael Starke) death is causing much guilt for his wife, Molly (Lynn Francis), about how he passed. With her neighbours, and their varied attempts (and intentions…) for support, will Molly get the chance to make things right with her Charlie?

This latest effort from one of Liverpool’s premier theatres features a truly fantastic ensemble cast. Real-life Scouse power couple Francis and Starke manage to have undeniable chemistry, even when they’re not communicating! Starke plays the relatable husband who acts the loveable fool with ease, might I add, whilst surprisingly peeling back the layers (when absolutely necessary) to deliver a highly emotive performance. Francis’ Molly is also in limbo. Should she continue grieving or branch out and continue with her life? The predicament is played so clearly; and for anyone who has been through a loss, you want to give her a huge hug and put the kettle on.

Helen Carter sublimely takes on Charlie’s ‘Auntie Peggy’; a woman with huge talent and ego to match who tragically lost her life at a young age, she guides Charlie through his time in limbo. As heartbreaking as that sounds, Carter grips every line with palpable charisma and has the audience laughing out loud with her dry wit. Her stunning voice is used effectively as an aid for scene transitions and sets the tone beautifully with a soundtrack from Doris Day, Dionne Warwick and beyond.

Paul Duckworth’s slimy portrayal of Gordon slithers around the stage with narcissistic ease and evokes both visible and audible shudders from the audience. Quite frankly, I may never look at a scatter cushion in the same way again.

Julie Glover sublimely tackles the role of Linda; a new-age warrior who seeks out auras and is deeply connected to the world in which she lives. Effortlessly, Glover commands the stage and treats the audience to a wonderfully developed character who oozes spirit and hilarity. In the moments when she left the stage, I found myself eagerly anticipating her return- a job so very well done.

Set and costume design, by Ellie Light, set a new bar for future Royal Court productions. The Moon’s living room fills the stage without any amenity missed. Looking on, it was as if we were watching a BBC sitcom coming to life before our eyes. With its exquisite attention to detail, other productions of ‘ghost stories’ should take inspiration on how to execute a spiritual presence effectively. Likewise, the costumes are true and natural to each character, from the mourning wife in her oversized lounge-suits, the cabaret singer in her all-out glam with a cigarette dangling from its holder to the quirky spiritualist healer in her 60’s inspired florals. Lighting Design by Ian Scott and Video Design by Jamie Jenkin work harmoniously to vividly bounce us between the warmth of the living and the mystique of limbo. Complimented effectually by Kate Harvey’s immersive Sound Design, it truly feels like a gold-standard in design from the creatives behind this slick production.

Whilst this production doesn’t take itself too seriously, it has a warmth about it that connects itself to the audience in such a way that puts other, more developed, productions to shame- leaving you laughing, crying and hopeful for more. In fact, it could quite easily be adapted into a multi-episode sitcom with its personable characters, hilarious dialogue and standout cast. Haunted Scouse is a hilarious and heart-wrenching hit!

This show was reviewed on the 15th February 2024 at the Royal Court Liverpool where it runs until the 9th March 2024.  Tickets available here: Haunted Scouse - Royal Court (liverpoolsroyalcourt.com)

Review written by Lee Gregory

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Photo credit: Jason Roberts Photography

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