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Bright Phoenix – Everyman Theatre, Liverpool

Writer: Jeff Young

Director: Serdar Bilis

Reviewer: Jamie Gaskin

How do you fill a gigantic space like the new Liverpool Everyman? With dreams, hopes and boundless imagination. This is the energy that fuels the lives of a group of misfits (The Awkward Bastards) squatting in the derelict Futurist cinema defying the world to take away those dreams…. But Jeff Young’s hallucinogenic trip down memory lane to the Liverpool of the 80s is studded with the harshness of reality. What happens when the children of that time try to fulfil their exciting ambitions? Why does Spike lose his eye and what becomes of Icarus?

The catalyst for the journey from today through to this toxic dreamscape of that time is the return of Lucas (Paul Duckworth) who left Liverpool to make his fortune – but clearly has not. Director Sirdar Bilis skilfully merges the eras and swaps characters from children to adults in the same setting often at a great pace, although sometimes it is hard to keep up with the narrative. It is the characters who really engage you as they strut their hopeless stuff against plans to regenerate the City. Their defiant claim that it’s their City and not the slick developers with their glib brochure and tidal-waves of smarm.

The incurable optimism of Spike (Rhodri Meillir) the man with the glass-eye who puts so much passion into his part he is visibly out of breath by the end. Spike wears his glass-eye like a badge of honour not a handicap. Lonely Elsie who only ever wanted love shrugs off the ageing face staring back at her from the compact to declare “I’ve never been so happy”. A great lesson from Cathy Tyson in playing a sensitive rôle.

Leading the charge to save the flea-pit cinema is Lizzie, a delightful performance from Penny Layden, the practical one pinching the electricity from the lap-dancing club next door. And the front-man for her public pageant is cross-dresser Stephen Shakey (Mark Rice-Oxley) wrapped up in his hopes to be a cabaret singer until the real world intrudes to batter him with his fears of the night he seeks to straddle and ride like a horse.

But for spectacle it has to be Carl Au as Alan ‘Icarus’ Flynn looking down on the city intoxicated by the idea of being a bird in a get-up that was both sad and spooky. It’s a shame that with the sophistries of the Everyman we didn’t see him fly.

It wouldn’t be Liverpool without music here provided by Martin Heslop. The haunting sounds of flautist Laura J Martin partnered by Vidar Norheim.

Runs until 25th October | Photo: Jonathan Keenan

Writer: Jeff Young Director: Serdar Bilis Reviewer: Jamie Gaskin How do you fill a gigantic space like the new Liverpool Everyman? With dreams, hopes and boundless imagination. This is the energy that fuels the lives of a group of misfits (The Awkward Bastards) squatting in the derelict Futurist cinema defying the world to take away those dreams.... But Jeff Young's hallucinogenic trip down memory lane to the Liverpool of the 80s is studded with the harshness of reality. What happens when the children of that time try to fulfil their exciting ambitions? Why does Spike lose his eye and what…

Review Overview

The Public Reviews Score

An hallucinogenic trip

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