Review: Love, Liverpool at the Playhouse ****
The last 18 months of pandemic has spurred many of us to re-evaluate what is important to us and what we want from our lives.
And as our world has contracted through successive lockdowns, it has also made us appreciate our surroundings, often rediscovered alongside a new-found enthusiasm for walking.
Liverpool is a place which inspires, and often demands, an emotional response; of longing and belonging, of pride and passion, of exultation – and, yes, just like any long-term relationship, exasperation.
The Everyman and Playhouse’s Love, Liverpool project was a response to all this, harnessing the thoughts, emotions and personal stories not only of established writers and artists but also of the city’s wider population – allowing them to pen their own love letters to the city we all collectively call home.
Here in this new stage version of the original online project, writer Chloë Moss, herself one of the Love, Liverpool contributors, has drawn together a selection of its disparate threads to create a compelling connected treasury of thoughts and tales.
Above: Aron Julius. Top: Love, Liverpool. Photos by Brian Roberts.
Rather like Jeff Young’s new memoir Ghost Town, there’s a dreamlike, poetic quality to parts of that treasury – along with the occasional moment of poetic licence.
But what begins as a glowing paean to the city and a celebration of Scouseness avoids becoming overly sentimental and self-reverential through a subtle shift which takes the narrative in a darker, more contemplative direction.
Moss and her fellow storytellers touch on mental health, loneliness, loss, ingrained racism, casual bigotry – and simply coping with what life throws at us – in a carefully considered narrative arc which ends, comfortingly, with hope.
It’s all brought vividly, and tenderly, to life by the show’s harmonious five-strong cast, including Aron Julius who delivers his own impassioned love letter to the Toxteth of his childhood
Director Nathan Powell and choreographer Grace Goulding generate a real sense of narrative pace and energy, while Tracey Gibbs’ video design, Jack Coleman’s lighting and Xenia Bayer’s evocative soundscape – a constant presence but never overwhelming – all add depth and texture to the storytelling.