Tony Furlong’s and Jimmy Power’s Night Collar is set to continue its popularity in Liverpool, going by last night’s reaction to the latest production of their comedy play.

Royal Court Liverpool is staging the scouse humoured show for the fifth time and, despite the regular run, it seems certain to be a success at the box office again.

Night Collar has been in amongst the forefront of popular theatre productions in the city for the past thirteen years.

In this new production, the assortment of outrageous characters imaginable are performed by familiar actors associated to the Court, with a majority delivering more than one role.

The audience, for those unfamiliar with the production, is taken on a journey with a cab driver around the streets of Liverpool during Christmas Eve. Local actor Chris Darwin, who recently appeared in BBC One’s Little Dorrit, takes us on an evening taxi shift following his brief introduction about life as a cab driver.

The set is simple and effective with a full size black London taxi, minus its roof and side doors – giving the audience sight of the actors’ performances – taking up most of the stage space.

A large projection screen displays moving images of recognisable Liverpool landmarks and roads whenever Darwin starts the cab’s unpredictable engine – making it seem it is in motion.

His first punters are a drunken married couple, Doe and Joe, played by Royal Court regulars – Lindzi Germain and Andrew Schofield – who are reunited following appearances in Dave Kirby’s smash hit Council Depot Blues at the same theatre last month.

Germain puts in another noticeable and outstanding performance in this new production. Her versatility of comedy left the sides of many in the audience aching with laughter – starting with an interpretation of the drunken wife of Joe. It’s a familiar scenario of a couple arguing whilst not really understanding why because the festive drink has taken its toll. Schofield and Germain play drunk so realistically it’s as if they actually are. Very funny. Sadly, though, Schofield doesn’t appear much again.

The cab driver is next almost conned into separating with some of his hard earned cash by a Big Issue sellar, performed by Lenny Wood. However, it’s Wood’s performance as the stuttering naked man, dumped in a wheelie bin by his stag night party, within the second act, he will be most remembered for.

Dressed in just a Rudolf illuminated red nose and antlers on top and ball with chain, Wood’s brave performance was hilarious, especially his emphasis on his character’s stutter.

The best lines, nonetheless, were left with Roy Carruthers, firstly, as the drunken tramp from Scotland, Wino, regarding his shoes, and then later when he portrays an absolutely historical drunk Santa Clause, regarding the soon-to-close Woolworths stores. Carruthers’ performance was certainly a favourite of mine.

Other notable laughs came through performances by Roy Davis, especially as the drug taking Yogi, and Peter Washington’s take on the Elvis impersonator.

Well known local actress Eithne Browne brought a poignancy to the fast paced and crazy scenario plot, as the prostitute and, especially, as the cancer patient. Clearly, Furlong and Power are stating through these characters – together with the cab driver – Christmas is not all about drink, drugs, laughter and singing.

And, it’s at the end, following a little recap of those characters met, the audience is seemingly subliminally told to spare a thought for those driving the cabs before flagging one down on leaving.

Once again, it’s another entertaining evening of theatre from the Royal Court, and has proven popular for Christmas staff parties.

*Night Collar runs at Royal Court Liverpool until Saturday, 24 January 2009.

Roy Carruthers as Drunk Santa Claus in Night Collar (picture taken by Dave Evans)

Roy Carruthers as Drunk Santa Claus in Night Collar (picture taken by Dave Evans)

L-R Andrew Schofield and Lindzi Germain, as Joe and Doe, with cab driver, played by Chris Darwin, in Night Collar (picture taken by Dave Evans)

L-R Andrew Schofield and Lindzi Germain, as Joe and Doe, with cab driver, played by Chris Darwin, in Night Collar (picture taken by Dave Evans)