Writer: Fred Lawless
Director: Ken Alexander
Reviewer: John Roberts
It may not have got off to the ideal start The Royal Court was hoping for…a press night and indeed first week of the production with your headlining star (David Guest*) out of action thanks to a bout of gastroenteritis. However The Royal Court found a last minute stand-in thanks to Anthony Watson and as the old adage goes “The show must go on.”
The Royal Court has become known for its brand of regionalised product, it knows its audience well and plays to its strengths, so it was great to see the title of this year’s production being picked almost a year ago from a public vote. Regular Royal Court writer Fred Lawless once again brings the humour to the stage in bucket loads and with his clear knowledge of the arcs of pantomime he has created a well rounded festival treat for the adults of Liverpool.
The plot as with most pantomimes is rather thin, Tommy (Michael Starke) and real life daughter Jamie Hampson as Julie are a ghost busting team that have been hired to investigate the supernatural goings on at Lime Street Station, here we are thrust into a world of Zombies and the mad cap plots of Dr Frankenstein (Mark Moraghan) who plans to destroy the city by taking out all of the famous landmarks from the Beatles History, for without them, Liverpool is nothing, right? Will the duo save the day or will Dr Frankenstein and his evil monster take over the city?
The strength of this production isn’t with the writing or indeed with Ken Alexander’s fluid and enjoyable direction, it is with the cast, who uniformly shine in both comedy and musical prowess. Moraghan shines with the camp ‘Monster Mash’ and provides plenty of macheavalion menace as Dr Frankenstein, excellent support is given from Lynn Francis as the cursing nun Sister Sledge and Lindzi Germain is her usual type-cast self as loud mouth Lisa/Voluptia. However the show is stolen by father and daughter duo Starke and Hampson.
Starke lights up the stage and plays ever trick in the book to have the audience laughing in the aisles and to top it off almost steals the show with a knockout rendition of Frank Wildhorn’s ‘This Is The Moment’ however it is the pitch perfect performance of Jamie Hampson who is clearly destined for bigger things, and her beautiful rendition of ‘Up on the Roof’ sympathetically re-orchestrated by Howard Gray becomes one of the shows strongest and most touching moments. Her warm and soft vocals prove that she is no one trick pony.
Special mention must be given to Anthony Watson who stood in for David Guest at the last minute (not that you could tell) delivering a text that has clearly been created with Guest in mind proves no struggle he holds his own and proves just why he is so highly regarded in the profession.
A Nightmare on Lime Street may not be the most highbrow of productions but it has never claimed to be, but who cares when you can go and see a show, have a nice meal before hand and laugh like the problems of the outside world were just a distant memory? The Royal Court clearly has another monster smash on their hands.