Review: Support Your Local Library - The Rock Opera! at Little LTF ***1/2
Twenty years ago, a young Liverpudlian called Keith Carter arrived on the city’s comedy club scene, introducing the world to his singular Scally creation Nige.
Nige, a parka-wearing philosopher, became so successful it was said he was even one of the reasons Liverpool was awarded the Capital of Culture title.
Now Carter’s back, this time guitar in hand, nattily-dressed, Zapata-moustached and with a new project – a slyly funny ‘rock opera’ about a community library, written with partner Ruth Cockburn.
They’re billed as a musical comedy duo - named Black Liver after her native Blackpool and his Liverpool roots.
But perhaps envisage more of a Lancastrian Johnny Cash and June Carter, delivering laconic asides and a duelling, driving guitar sound while, yes, singing satirical songs about snobbery, hip librarians, killer recipes….and sex-mad pets.
The arrival of a new librarian to the ghastly nouveau riche Northern town of Little Hope, where paninis have replaced pies in barms and “we all have the same face because we bought it from the same place”, causes a stir among the population.
While the kids love the retro idea of “a podcast you can look at” (that’s a book to you and me), the adults are worried the youth are more interested in art than acrylics – acrylic nails that is.
And when an angry mob descends on Little Hope library to put a stop to all this subversive culture and deep thinking, it’s down to the next generation to save it.
The fictional plot is interspersed with the quirky tale of how Carter and Cockburn first met in a library, became friends, and then fell in love.
Support Your Local Library is inspired, bonkers, and at times – due to it still being, presumably, an earlyish incarnation – somewhat rough around the edges.
While too much slickness would undoubtedly spoil the feel of the show, the deliberate light bickering which punctuates the song-led parallel stories can make it all feel a bit irritatingly disjointed.
But with an off-beat plot, some cracking tunes and wily lyrics, and the obvious rapport between Carter and Cockburn, it’s definitely a show that has got a long shelf life.
Top: Ruth Cockburn and Keith Carter. Photo by David Munn