Ever bump in to an old friend you haven’t seen for a while and think – blimey, you look good? What have you done to yourself?
Well that’s exactly the feeling with Scouse Pacific, back on the Royal Court stage after almost a decade and looking even better for the break.
Writer Fred Lawless and director Bob Eaton have taken the theatre’s 2019 Christmas crowd-pleaser, shorn it of its festive trimmings (well, mostly, there’s still a hint of Peter Pan and Ali Baba) and have reconfigured it as a sunny summer South Seas smash hit.
We’re back on Secosu, the island paradise where a remote society of Scousers – descendants of a sailor washed up on its shores many moons ago – live the Liverpool way, where they get their news from ‘home’ from old Echos washed up on the beach, and where the dish du chaque jour is bananas.
Bananas are however, sending Terry Riley (Jake Abraham) bananas, while daughter Donna Marie (Jamie Clarke) is desperate to leave the island, head for the Mersey and meet a nice Scouse lad.
Scouse Pacific. Photos by Activate Digital
But life suddenly becomes a whole lot more interesting for the islanders when a trio of nuns with very bad habits are shipwrecked off Secosu’s Scouse sea shores, and a dastardly moustachioed baddie from the next island develops designs on their little slice of paradise.
While the Royal Court often utilises its revolve stage, here the action takes place on a single colourful pop-up picture book set, and with the support of a small but cracking band in the pit.
Two of the original cast from 2010 survive to form the backbone of this latest production – Lindzi Germain reprises her role as matriarch Mary Riley, while Stephen Fletcher graduates from hapless sidekick Dick to the snake oil salesman Roger Burke, complete with Burt Reynolds ‘tache and hair.
Michael Starke meanwhile dons a wimple to play outrageous Sister Ophelia (a true lover of the holy spirit) who has cannily replaced the unreplaceable Father O’Flaherty, leader of the Sisters of Mersey (Mia Molloy and Abigail Middleton) in their missionary expedition the first time around. Keep an ear out for the namecheck homage to O’Flaherty’s creator Alan Stocks though.
The Royal Court regulars are joined by new boy Guy Freeman who looks right at home in the middle of the mayhem, although given the way he’s pushed and slapped around by the other characters let’s hope he lasts the run without serious mishap.
The action is crisply placed, the jokes keen (although there’s a stolen hubcap gag in there that feels dated) and the re-energised soundtrack is delivered with beefy harmonies - and a brilliant Brian May guitar solo in a first half Bohemian Rhapsody.
In essence? Ebullient entertainment to see you through summer with a smile on your face.