First it was a pulsating ‘Christmas disco’ musical warming up the chilly surroundings of The Dome at Grand Central with its Seventies songs and silliness.
Then it became a summertime success at the Royal Court.
And now, six years after it premiered in the city, Mam! I’m ‘Ere! is back for a third outing, with the 2018 cast a mixture of ‘Mam’ veterans like Drew Schofield and Eithne Browne and new faces.
“Over half the cast is new,” says writer/director Stephen Fletcher, who returns to acting duties for the first time since 2012.
“I think this time it feels very much like a Royal Court show. There are familiar faces – the Royal Court All Stars if you like.”
The original 2012 production, created on a shoe-string budget, also featured a number of recognisable Royal Court faces of course. And in fact, Fletcher had previously pitched the idea – unsuccessfully at that point – to the theatre.
When he discovered a handful of fellow actors weren’t needed for that year’s Christmas show, he decided to stage Mam! I’m ‘Ere! Himself “really just to create work, so we could all do something”.
“I kind of knew the formula,” he continues. “I knew what worked, and we learned so much from that audience.
“And really, looking back, probably knowing what I do know now, I wouldn’t have done it! But it’s always the way. I was young and enthusiastic, less jaded! But it’s a good thing I was, or we wouldn’t be here now.
“The main focus was to create a family-friendly show. I wanted something for all generations.”
Stephen Fletcher in the Royal Court rehearsal room
This current version of Mam! I’m ‘Ere! continues in that vein – it rates as gran friendly on the Royal Court’s ‘gran-o-meter’ of rudeness.
Mamma Mia! creator Judy Craymer and writer Catherine Johnson both gave the original show their blessing, while musical director Phyllida Lloyd also backed the production with practical help.
Meanwhile this latest outing coincides with the release of Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, the sequel to the hit 2008 film version, in cinemas.
“It wasn’t deliberate, just good timing,” says Fletcher. “But with the changes to the show this time. It’s not Mamma Mia at all really. Although it’s a little cheeky nod, after the first five minutes it’s completely different territory.”
The ‘cheeky nod’ is a plot in which three potential parents are lured to a holiday destination in the hope one might be a missing mamma rediscovered in time for her daughter’s wedding.
Sally was left on her dad’s doorstep one cold and windy Liverpool night. Quarter of a century later and she has met the love of her life on her dad’s failing disco holiday campsite in Wales. There is just one person missing from her wedding plans – her mam.
After teasing out stories from her dad's best mates she narrows her search down to three very different women from his past...
While Drew Schofield reprises his role as Dad, Sally is played this time by Hayley Sheen (better known to Royal Court audiences under her maiden name Hampson) who was a disco diva in the 2015 production.
The cast also includes Lindzi Germain, Jake Abraham, Lynn Francis, Michael Fletcher, Mia Molloy – who starred in Our Day Out at the Royal Court a decade ago, and Rachael Wood, like Stephen Fletcher a LIPA alumnus.
Jake Abraham, Drew Schofield and Stephen Fletcher in rehearsals
“What’s been great is that rather than just do a remount of the production, it’s kind of like a new show now,” says Fletcher. “I play to everyone’s strengths. Where we’ve lost abilities in some areas, we’ve gained in others, in other characters and other actors.”
So if people came to see it in 2015 will they notice much of a difference in 2018?
He considers: “Probably, yeah. I think they would. There’s a whole chunk at the end which is completely different. We had Father O’Flaherty last time which is a Royal Court creation, and he’s no more - Alan Stocks is on the road now doing Calendar Girls.
“And a few of the songs have been jigged around.”
Mam! I’m ‘Ere! remains a co-production between the Royal Court and Fletcher’s Life In Theatre Productions, a relationship he relishes and hopes to build on both in the main house and also through staging work in the new Studio downstairs as he did with actress Catherine Rice earlier this year.
Fletcher, along with a number of his Mam cast, are also returning to star in the theatre’s Christmas show The Scouse Cinderella.
So what of Mam? Six years ago, the ambition was just to stage a family-friendly show and create some work for himself and fellow actor friends over the festive season. Now, Fletcher would love to see Mam! I’m ‘Ere! spread its wings outside Liverpool.
“I’d have to tour to places where they say ‘mam’!” he laughs. “Or change the ‘a’ to an ‘o’ and take it to America. That would be all right!”
Mam! I’m ‘Ere! is at Royal Court Liverpool from July 13 to August 11. Tickets from the website HERE