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Sisters of Mersey promise divine new comedy at the Royal Court

It’s lunchtime in the Royal Court rehearsal room and Lindzi Germain and Keddy Sutton are pondering whether they would make good nuns.

“I couldn’t be a nun, not at all,” Germain says decisively. “I swear too much! And I’m a social butterfly, I’m too free-spirited.”

Sutton admits to curiosity, but adds: “I’d have to learn the Bible as though I’m learning lines. So I know what I’m talking about!”

Still, while they may not have any official plans to take orders, this month you will find both of them in habit and wimple as they appear as the titular Sisters of Mersey in Jonathan Harvey’s new celestial comedy caper for the Royal Court.

The Liverpool writer’s joyfully outrageous Eurovision celebration A Thong for Europe got a resounding douze points from the theatre’s audiences last spring.

Germain and Sutton were among its cast – the former played Eurovision superfan Lulu while the latter took on several roles including a squeaky Sonia, incognito beneath a sparkly pink balaclava.

“I’ve always loved Eurovision, so it was a dream that it was in the city,” Sutton says. “And then to be asked to be in a show about Eurovision – and with a writer who has been on my bucket list for years.

“When I was at the Everyman Youth Theatre, I went to see Beautiful Thing and Rupert Street Lonely Hearts Club, and I remember going ‘oh that’s where I might fit in. That’s my kind of thing’.”

Thong was both a smash hit, and a lot of fun.

Above: Lindzi Germain and Keddy Sutton in A Thong for Europe. Photo by Jason Roberts. Top: Germain and Sutton in a break from Sisters of Mersey rehearsals. Photo by Clara Mbirimi

So when Harvey, as Germain relates, “got in touch and said ‘I’ve written this show and I want you to be the twins”, they didn’t need any persuading.

“People who had read the script said we were popping out on the page, you could just hear us saying those words” she adds.

Sister Petra and Sister Fionola have grown up as identical twins at St Elmo’s Convent in Dingle. But after they discover they aren’t twins after all, the pair decide to go AWOL from the convent and discover what happened to their real families – with chaotic results.

“I play Sister Petra Pottymouth,” explains Germain. “Can you see where I’m typecast in this show?! Sister Petra isn’t convinced they’re identical twins, whereas Sister Fionola is.”

Sutton adds: “My character, Sister Fionola Foghorn, believes she’s the same height and is identical to Sister Petra. She’s convinced, even to the point of willing it even if it’s not true.”

Germain laughs: “There’s a great line where she says ‘well, we dress the same’.”

Harvey has set his tale in 1986, the year Andrew and Fergie got hitched, journalist John McCarthy was kidnapped in Beirut, The Phantom of the Opera opened in the West End, Neighbours came to British TV screens, the M25 motorway was officially opened and Freddie Starr hit the headlines for allegedly eating a live hamster.

Closer to home, Merseyside County Council was scrapped, National Museums and Galleries on Merseyside was formed, Liverpool won the First Division for the 16th time (and beat Everton 3-1 in the FA Cup final), Gary Lineker left Everton for Barcelona, Derek Hatton was expelled from the Labour Party, Noel Chavasse’s twin sisters May and Margery Chavasse turned 100….and a 14-year-old Lindzi Germain went to her first concert – to see Wham at the Royal Court.

Above: Lindzi Germain and Keddy Sutton have appeared together a number of times at the Royal Court including Scouse Jack and the Beanstalk in 2022. Photo by Jason Roberts.

“Little did I know I’d be on that stage many years later,” she says.

Sutton was also 14. “I had these two really funny friends called Ali and Cheryl,” she recalls. “And I think they were preparing me for when we could try and start going clubbing when we were 15!

“They were constantly backcombing my hair.”

Germain’s first appearances on that Royal Court stage came in shows like The Ale House and Night Collar, with actors like Mickey Finn and Crissy Rock, while her first production under the current theatre management was Lost Soul where she played Donna – a character she ‘found’ while shopping in Iceland.

“There was a woman at the checkout collecting for Morris dancers,” she explains. “She was covered in sovereigns and with a velour trackie on, saying ‘give for the Morris dancers for our kids’. And I thought – that’s it! That’s the character!”

Sutton’s Royal Court debut meanwhile came in Stags and Hens in Capital of Culture year, directed by Bob Eaton and Willy Russell – although she admits she and fellow Royal Court regular Stephen Fletcher would also find quiet corners and try out ideas for playing their scenes.

Above: Lindzi Germain and Keddy Sutton with Stephen Fletcher who is directing Sisters of Mersey. Photo by Clara Mbirimi.

Last year it was Fletcher who directed A Thong for Europe. He’s back in charge of this latest Jonathan Harvey play too – and the pair are full of praise for him.

Meanwhile Emma Bispham, who played the memorable milkmaid-costumed Beryl from Balkania, also joins the Sisters of Mersey team, along with three new cast members.

“It’s nice to have women in the lead roles, which we also had in A Thong for Europe,” says Germain who in 2016 wrote her own hit comedy, The Royal, specifically to put women centre stage. “It’s good that women are coming forward and saying ‘do you know what? We are funny.’”

Sutton agrees: “And you’re given characters who perhaps years ago might have been given to the guys. Funny quirks and the comedy role within the group of actors. But everyone gets a go in Jonathan Harvey’s work, there’s no straight man. Everyone gets a good go, and I love that watching everyone shine in their different areas.”

So what can audiences expect from Sisters of Mersey?

“It’s got me and Keds in it,” Germain says. “It’s fun, it’s fast, it’s filthy. And it’s full of fabulous 80s tracks.”

Sisters of Mersey is at Liverpool’s Royal Court from July 5 to August 3. Tickets HERE


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