Review: 2Gorgeous4U at Liverpool Theatre Festival ****
Mark Davies Markham has form when it comes to harnessing pop music and pop culture as a backdrop for his stories.
The Liverpool playwright penned the musical Taboo with Boy George, turned the inspiration behind Madness concept album The Liberty of Norton Folgate into a BBC Radio 4 drama and wove his memories of legendary club Eric’s with his own personal story of survival in a rollercoaster of a show at the Everyman.
As with all these previous pieces, 2Gorgeous4U – opening this year’s Liverpool Theatre Festival with a bang (and, I suppose, a band) – is set against a music background but is actually a story about hopes, dreams, re-evaluation, reconciliation and rediscovery.
Davies Markham originally wrote the 70-minute piece with Liverpool actress Lindzi Germain in mind.
In the event it’s been brought to the stage in its premiere at the Bombed Out Church by Lynne Fitzgerald who seizes the script with alacrity and has maximum fun with the character of Clare, owner of a swanky spa and salon in Waterloo but once upon a time one half of successful Scouse 90s girl group 2Gorgeous4U.
And how refreshing (speaking as a middle-aged woman!) to find a middle-aged female protagonist at the heart of a story – a woman juggling commitments including her own business, a daughter at university and an older mother while trying to make space for herself.
Clare’s carefully constructed life as purveyor of wellness to the good ladies of Waterloo by day and online dating diva by night is upset by an unexpected phone call from a Scally promoter begging her to consider re-forming the group with erstwhile best mate Tina to play a festival he’s staging in ‘Seffie Park’.
Lynne Fitzgerald as Clare in 2Gorgeous4U. Photos by David Munn.
Both a can of worms and old wounds are reopened as Clare is forced to revisit the joyful excesses of her 90s Britpop career and confront the falling out with bezzie Tina which led to them splitting up.
Fitzgerald is an entertaining and versatile narrator of the tale which involves sleight of hand character changes as she introduces us to elderly clients, her mother (half Hyacinth Bucket, half Mrs Henderson from The Liver Birds), and an assortment of mostly dodgy dates.
While an uplifting denouement is probably never in doubt, she and director James Baker inject plenty of energy and a little unexpected emotion along the way.
It could do with a bit of polishing here and there, and occasionally the delivery becomes a little frenetic and indistinct. But 2Gorgeous4U marks a strong start to the 2021 festival.
A note on the physical structure of this year’s event.
After the enclosed marquee and reversed staging of this Little LTF earlier in the summer, the main festival has returned to its original configuration with the stage under the arch of the ruins and the ‘auditorium’ open to the elements.
It’s also returned to capacity seating, but a brisk breeze blowing through the site (dress warmly for when the sun goes down) is a reassurance for the Covid-wary.
Liverpool Theatre Festival runs until September 12.