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Wirral-based Pulse Records & Productions has released a video promotional clip for its musical show Twopence to Cross the Mersey.

The production is making a fourth appearance at the Liverpool Empire theatre in October having already taken £1.5million at the box office.

Based on a novel of the same name, Twopence to Cross the Mersey chronicles the author Helen Forrester’s early life during The Great Depression.

The book has been adapted for the stage by Rob Fennah and with readership breaking into the multi-millions the producers are working towards a tour of the UK and Ireland.

Liverpool actress Pauline Daniels and fellow Scouser Mark Moraghan make a return to the cast as Helen and John Forrester respectively.

Replacing Jamie Clarke as Young Helen, who received critical acclaim for her involvement in the last two productions, is Emma Grace Arends.

Former Shameless actor Ciaran Kellgren is also amongst the cast, working alongside his father Ian, who is directing the show.     

Twopence to Cross the Mersey opens at the Liverpool Empire Theatre from 6–17 October 2009.

* To view the promotional video visit here

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Aaron Monaghan reprises the role of Christy Mahon engagingly

Aaron Monaghan reprises the role of Christy Mahon

The Druid Theatre Company’s touring production of John Millington Synge’s The Playboy of the Western World has made another appearance to the North West with a visit to the Liverpool Playhouse.

Druid’s talented cast of eleven put in a two-hour performance the Irish playwright would have been proud of you feel as they emphasise the peasant life aspects of the story and keep to the stylised realism his writing became known for.

Award-winning artistic director of Druid, Garry Hynes, sets out to re-evaluate and re-engage with the Irish dramatic giant. Incredibly, Hynes’ company – under the title DruidSynge – previously undertook a mammoth project staging all six of Synge’s plays in one day, taking it on a tour of America.

The theatre company’s new production of The Playboy of the Western World did not, thankfully, create riots like its world premiere at the Abbey Theatre did in 1907. But some members of the audience did walk out after Act Two of the three-act play.

Francis O’Connor’s set design, depicting a grubby and run down public house in County Mayo made out of wood and with a sawdust floor covering the stage, does not change throughout as the audience is introduced one-by-one to each of the characters.

The central storyline of The Playboy of the Western World is about a simpleton called Christy Mahon (Aaron Monaghan) who stumbles into Michael James Flaherty’s battered pub claiming he has killed his father, but in doing so he not only captures the imagination of the locals, but also the romantic attention of Flaherty’s (John Olohan) daughter, Pegeen Mike (Clare Dunne).

Amongst Druid’s eleven-strong ensemble, the gangly Marcus Lamb’s portrayal of Pegeen’s betrothed Shawn Keogh brought out a lot the humour of the play with his wimpy performance.

However, Monaghan’s decision to reprise the role of Christy Mahon was a good one as he plays the part engagingly.

Without wishing to offend the actor, his appearance does help his character’s own questioning of why any woman would be baying for his affection as his big nose only helps to create a more unattractive look. This becomes accelerated by Monaghan’s choice of limping slightly and a constant vileness of spitting on the stage throughout.

Synge’s poetic words are delivered by a cast clearly enjoying the chance to perform his work. Their energy and comic timing is very good when it is required.

Druid’s version of The Playboy of the Western World will not please everyone, which was reflected by those audience members who did leave early, but for a night of pure theatrical enjoyment this is the production for you.

The above was used for the following website here

Andrew Schofield and Eamonn Owens star in The Flags as the useless lifeguards JJ and Howie

Andrew Schofield and Eamonn Owens star in The Flags as the useless lifeguards JJ and Howie

Following a brief – almost unnoticeable – postponement, Greg Hersov’s take on Bridget O’Connor’s Irish play The Flags was worth the wait in Liverpool.

A hit at Manchester’s Royal Exchange on two occasions, The Flags is the Royal Court’s attempt at, to quote the theatre’s chief executive Kevin Fearon, “making you laugh, pull on your emotions and entertain you.” And it does.

Laurie Dennett’s design transforms the theatre to look like a dishevelled section of beach with a buried VW car acting as a ‘watch tower’ amongst the litter and dead seagulls – cruelly murdered by the lifeguard with no clue – Howie.

Eamonn Owens, as in Manchester, plays the part of Howie and is reminiscent to Dougal from the Father Ted series. He’s excellent as Howie and brings a lot of sympathy from the audience for his dim and simple portrayal of a character he is seemingly making his own.

While Liverpool favourite Andrew Schofield as the lying and deceiving John Joseph – a.k.a JJ – starts by being quite rooted to his seat as the “chilled dude” before a turn of circumstances has him running around the stage either stressed or excited at the prospect of a new horizon.

Marie Jones’ costume choice makes them look like extras from Baywatch but they are hopeless as lifeguards and the use of make-up adds to the humour too with Howie possessing a ‘t-shirt tan’ and white feet against tanned legs in the first act. Simple, but clever.

Howie and JJ are under the watchful eye of the director of Leisure Services, Brendon, played by – as in Manchester – Kieran Cunningham, who they must impress to gain the two vacant posts at the more welcoming Banna Strand beach.

Cunningham plays the part of Brendon well – every employee’s nightmare – and a sort of David Brent type figure. The scene where he shows Howie his swimming technique certainly has similarities to the ‘Brent dance’ in The Office. Very funny.

As a sub plot, the inclusion of the unstable and jilted bride Ursula (Jessica Regan) is an interesting one. Regan has some of the funniest lines and scenes as the suicidal bride and keeps the story flowing because, at times, the play loses its way a little in the first act as the two central characters seem to be stuck on repeat bemoaning their situation.

Nonetheless, The Flags is certainly a great night out and the set alone is worth going to see.

The above was used for the following website here

The Flags runs at Royal Court until 27 June 2009. For tickets and further information visit the theatre’s website here

*Photograph taken by Dave Evans

Rebecca Ryan and Kevin Trainor in Lost Monsters

Rebecca Ryan and Kevin Trainor in Lost Monsters

Playwright Laurence Wilson’s second full length play looks through the lives of four characters who each have something to offer to the complicated world we all live within.

The former Liverpool Everyman writer-in-residence returns to the theatre with new play Lost Monsters, which opens debate on life and compares human behaviour with the bee, after he became inspired by David Attenborough’s BBC nature documentary Life in the Undergrowth.

Lost Monsters captivates its audience from the start. The play opens with a toy car whizzing around within an open suitcase that has a small model set of a road circulating an old house inside it.

Street Furniture’s bass-driven music complements Simon Daw’s instantly recognisable set – a disused, dingy unkempt home with a chilly atmosphere seeping from beneath the dusty floor boards.

Nick Moss is reunited to Wilson’s work after appearing in his first play Urban Legend at the Everyman five years ago. He plays Scouser Mickey with a sense of the tough hard-man act but also shows a soft and caring nature to the character. He’s streetwise and filled with self-importance and dreams of escaping to the bright lights of Las Vegas.

Rebecca Ryan as his pregnant teenager girlfriend Sian shows glimpses, particularly when swearing, of her most known role as Debbie in Channel 4’s Shameless, but really impressed with a representation of a young rebelling middle-class girl whose appearance not only resembles a ladybird look, with red and black striped tracksuit top and socks, but it added to her character’s arty outlook.

Kevin Trainor as Jonesy shines amongst a talented ensemble. Trainor appeared in Guillermo del Toro’s 2004 feature film based on Mike Mignola’s Hellboy comics character as the young Trevor Bruttenholm, played as an older man by John Hurt in the film, and the Irish-born actor also appeared in the Ulster Mum series of sketches in BBC’s The Catherine Tate Show.  

As Jonesy in Lost Monsters, he brings great energy and an incredible memory to his autistic character, particularly as he recites the different types of bees to his two fellow runaway friends.

With an obsession for all things sweet from sugar to the honey producing insect, Jonesy is a special human being used for his skills at “milking fruit machines”. He asks the recluse Richard, who’s crumbling home the three runaways have invaded following their car crash: “Why can’t people be more like bees?”

Liverpool’s Joe McGann has a magical presence as the long bearded Richard from the moment he first appears as a hooded figure, closing the suitcase on the model set, to the effortless ease he opens cans of food for his guests. “Because bees are simple creatures,” he explains to Jonesy. “They have none of the sophisticated problems that hinder humanity.”

Richard is a divorcee and also eccentrically obsessed with bees but recognises the strengths and weaknesses of his three new friends almost to the point of controlling them.

Scenes such as the re-enactment of BBC’s Mastermind between McGann and Trainor or the “Jonesy Bee Dance” have audiences in stitches of laughter and are cleverly done by director Matt Wilde.

Underneath the humour, however, Lost Monsters beautifully asks more questions about society and the world we inhabit.

Lost Monsters runs until 13 June. Click on the following website here

*Photo taken by Helen Warner

The venue for the evening

The venue for the evening

Francis McEntegart, Chime Management, and Rob Fennah, Pulse Records and Productions

Francis McEntegart, Chime Legal Services, and Rob Fennah, Pulse Records and Productions

Actor Steven Fletcher and comedian John Bishop

Actor Steven Fletcher and comedian John Bishop

(L-R) Steven Gerrard, Frank Bentley, Bang On Top Productions, playwright Nicky Allt, Jamie Carragher, comedian John Bishop

(L-R) Steven Gerrard, Frank Bentley, Bang On Top Productions, playwright Nicky Allt, Jamie Carragher, comedian John Bishop

Actor John McArdle

Actor John McArdle

Girls from Liverpool Community College

Girls from Liverpool Community College

Former Liverpool FC player Dietmar Hamann

Former Liverpool FC player Dietmar Hamann

Liverpool FC captain Steven Gerrard and Nicky Allt

Liverpool FC captain Steven Gerrard and Nicky Allt

Guests got to view some fantastic watches and jewellery on display by David M Robinson

Guests got to view some fantastic watches and jewellery on display by David M Robinson

Liverpool FC star Jamie Carragher shares a joke with Didi Hamann

Liverpool FC star Jamie Carragher shares a joke with Didi Hamann

Emile Coleman of Bang On Top Productions

Emile Coleman of Bang On Top Productions

Liverpool FC star Jamie Carragher held the official launch of a new play by Kirkby-born playwright Nicky Allt at his bar Cafe Sports England in the city centre last night.

One Night in Istanbul gives an alternative view of the historic night Liverpool FC clinched its fifth European Cup for keeps from the fans’ perspective.

LFC stars Jamie Carragher, Steven Gerrard, Xabi Alonso together with Manchester City player Dietmar Hamann – a player for Liverpool Football Club on that memorable night – arrived at the venue, in Stanley Street, to support this exciting new play.

Steven Gerrard said: “It’s a night I’ll never forget and it’s great to have such a gifted local writer bring this night to the stage in Liverpool and hopefully to other places where there is strong support for this great club.”

One Night in Istanbul is supported by a great cast including comedian John Bishop, former Brookside actors John McArdle and Steven Fletcher and Christine Tremarco, who currently appears in BBC drama Waterloo Road, has also been confirmed.

The launch evening was bustling with excitement as Liverpool FC defender Jamie Carragher was only too aware what the famous night in May meant to his fans. He said: “I know how much of a night this was for fans of Liverpool Football Club, but equally it was the same feeling for the players, if not, more. But hopefully we might win the European Champions League Cup again and give them more to feel happy about.”

One Night in Istanbul tells the journey of Tom and Gerry, based on two known supporters to LFC’s travelling fraternity, who head to Istanbul to see their beloved Liverpool take on Italian champions AC Milan.

In order to pay for their trip, Tom and Gerry have to find the Grand Bazaar to sell Adolf Hitler’s cufflinks.

“It’s a really good story,” said John Bishop, who will play the part of Tom. “Nicky is a really gifted writer and having some of the players here tonight shows how much they support what he’s doing.”

Actor John McArdle was equally impressed with the script having been cast to play the part of Gerry. He added: “It was a brilliant idea and only Nicky could write something like this.

“I’m a massive Red as well, but unfortunately couldn’t get to go to the final in Istanbul. Nicky went and has told me all about his experience though!

“We hope some Evertonians come and support and see the show because it was a night the city shouldn’t forget!”

As Liverpool’s fight back unfolds, from being 3-0 down to levelling 3-3 after ninety minutes and winning famously by penalties in the Ataturk Stadium, Tom and Gerry recall their own and Liverpool’s past European conquests while all the time dreaming of that fifth big win that’ll mean the European Cup is for keeps.

James Spofforth, who appeared in Stags and Hens at the Royal Court recently, and Steven Fletcher have been cast as Tom and Gerry’s sons, Jamie and Joseph, respectively.

As circumstances unravel in this football fairytale – leading to a case of mistaken identity with two Turkish thieves over some stolen cash – the audience can expect, like that famous May night, some surprises thrown in for good measure.

The play is being produced by Bang On Top Productions, a company set up by Nicky Allt with his business partners Emile Coleman, a lecturer at Liverpool Community College, and Frank Bentley.

Following its appearance in Liverpool, One Night in Istanbul will be taken on a tour Coleman confirmed. He said: “This play is going to Dublin and Oslo and I know it’s going to be a massive success. Nicky is the best playwright in Liverpool right now. The work he’s done in the past with Dave Kirby and his other writing has changed the concept of theatre in this city. When he asked me to get involved with his production company I was absolutely delighted. I knew it would work and it’s not going to be just football related shows we’re going to do because he is gifted at writing about other issues. I don’t even follow football anyway!”

In the meantime, however, Coleman will be working with his students at Liverpool Community College on One Night in Istanbul. He added: “All the students are working on the programme for the play, behind the scenes on the production side, and one of them is even being cast in the show.”

Coleman also mentioned television production companies have also expressed interest in this new play by Allt.

One Night in Istanbul appears at the Liverpool Empire theatre 9-18 July.

The above was used for the following website here

*Photographs taken by Chris Chadwick

Burlesque dancer Cherri Bakewell shakes her feathers (picture taken by Paul Tsanos)

Burlesque dancer Cherri Bakewell shakes her feathers (picture taken by Paul Tsanos)

Nara Taylor, Queen of the Night, sings opera (picture taken by Paul Tsanos)

Nara Taylor, Queen of the Night, sings opera (picture taken by Paul Tsanos)

Some naughty ladies took to the stage at a new venue just opened in Liverpool city centre last night.

A performance art with Italian and French roots was being promoted at Monochrome, formerly a sports-themed bar, located in Sir Thomas Street, which certainly isn’t for the introverted.

Burletiquette is promoted and organised by Bella Besame, a northern lass with a serious passion for burlesque, the last Thursday of every month.

Besame was bringing burlesque to the city having promoted similar nights in Leeds, Huddersfield and Manchester.

It was opening night and the few hundred sat around on leather beanbags on the second floor of Liverpool’s new venue got to experience the art of tease, with an opera twist.

Okay, admittedly, I was a little sceptical at what I was being invited to review, especially as my instant reaction was, “I’m off to a strip show!”

However, upon arrival, the audience had women outnumbering men easily and couples were aplenty dotted about.

The night was not sleazy by any means, just an evening of pure theatrical fun.

Introducing the four acts was quite an angry, somewhat scary, self-proclaimed “vampire, queen of the night” – Rosie Lugosi.

Lugosi and Besame interact like a devil with its slave as the latter totters about playing the maid, cleaning up after each act, whether it be glitter, feathered scarves, gloves or parts of underwear.

Two 45 minute shows are performed with Lugosi being compère for the evening, dressed in purple underwear, black stockings and top hat.

Soon we’re introduced to the “prim” and “possibly shy” Leigh Mon Meringue, the “fruity” and “vivacious” Miss Bijou Noir, the “frothy” and “feathery” Cherri Bakewell, before show stealer Nara Taylor Queen of the Night.

Each act performs twice, with Nara Taylor ending the show with a performance of Carmen backed by music supplied by, as he does all evening, DJ Dr Sid.

Monochrome is leading the way in being a bit risqué in Liverpool, but I suspect other venues holding these type of shows are a little more suited.

Attention to lighting, in particular, needs looking into because sometimes it felt as though you were conscious of your surroundings, instead of all the attention being put on the performers.

At £10 in advance, though, this is certainly great value, compared to other burlesque evenings you’re likely to see in places like Paris or London.

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)

Tonight I went to see the latest musical comedy production from Kirkby-ite, Dave Kirby.

Now, ladies and gentlemen, when I refer to Kirkby-ite I do indeed mean Kirkby, which is – Kirby confesses – a rough and tough place, located in the north of Liverpool, to grow up loving literary and poetry. But, thank G*d, Kirby came from this part of the world!

Kirby is a genius. He’s a genius because my old man wouldn’t dream in a million years of going to the theatre, yet, because of Kirby, he’s been twice in the last year – this being his second time.

And this is because Kirby has hit the right note for many scousers (yep, count my dad in – he’s from Fazakerley) in terms of getting them to watch something on stage rather than on the footy pitch (nothing wrong, however, in that, I might add).

And Kirby has delivered – for me – another brilliant show with Depot Blues.

I interviewed the co-writer of Brick Up The Mersey Tunnels and writer of Lost Soul just before Lost Soul was about to be staged for the second time in his home city. He was at the early stages of writing Depot Blues back then, but told me it came from his time working in the council depot himself where he met the greatest and funniest characters ever, who, he added, were possibly the laziest men ever!

And, in a nutshell, this is what the play is about. But it’s a bit more deep rooted because the crux of the show is about men wishing their lives away, but never do anything to make it better.

It stars, Alan Bleasdale once told me, ‘the most talented person from Liverpool since John Lennon’ – Andrew Schofield. And few wouldn’t argue with Liverpool’s other genius playwright.

Schofield, though, is joined by a brilliant and talented cast.

They delivered Kirby’s words which almost made you lose track you were in the theatre or actually in the depot – it was so real. The one liners were pretty much left to Schofield’s character Danny.

But Jake Abraham – scouser from Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels – shows his hidden talents as a brilliant guitarist, Ex-Brookside actor Paul Broughton wears, within the second act, possibly the craziest trousers ever sewn, Howard Gray’s musical direction is fantastic, and Lindzi Germain really is terrifying as Vera.

But anyone thinking of going to watch this play should do, just to witness the performance of Shaun Mason as Shorty. And scousers will understand exactly what I mean when I say this.

Even if you just like listening to live music, go see it. Because, despite what Mason’s character might say, it is certainly not s***e in this play.

*Council Depot Blues is on at the Royal Court Theatre, Liverpool, until Saturday 29 November (for the record, I had a delicious scouse dinner included with my ticket, which I highly recommend to make the most of your night out!)

Fitzy, Danny, and Jo Jo (a.k.a Jake Abraham, Andrew Schofield, Roy Brandon – just three of the outstanding cast in Council Depot Blues by Dave Kirby)

Pictured L-R: Fitzy, Danny, and Jo Jo (a.k.a Jake Abraham, Andrew Schofield, Roy Brandon – just three of the outstanding cast in Council Depot Blues by Dave Kirby)

I meet Phil Willmott, whose love of a unique Liverpool hotel became an inspiration behind his new musical.

Checking in for a three-week run at the Liverpool Playhouse is the long-awaited musical production celebrating one of city’s most famous buildings.

Romance perhaps wouldn’t be the first association many in Liverpool would think of when the Britannia Adelphi Hotel becomes topic of conversation – especially these latter years.

Love it or hate it, there is no denying the prominent building, located in Ranelagh Place, has been and, I suppose, continues to be a place where stories are told.

“This building means so much to so many people from Liverpool,” says Phil Willmott, writer and director of the new musical Once Upon A Time At The Adelphi.

“I always try and do one production a year in Liverpool and always look forward to staying in the city. It’s why I wanted to write this musical really.”

The 42-year-old playwright is renowned for his imaginative musical productions including an adaptation of Around The World In Eighty Days, which visited Liverpool in 2002.

Willmott also brought a wonderful revival of Keith Waterhouse and Willis Hall’s Billy Liar to the Liverpool Playhouse in 2006, and his reworking of Athol Fugard’s Master Harold and the Boys appeared in the city in 2005 and became noted as an outstanding production.

He is also the artistic director of his own multi award-winning theatre company The Steam Industry, as well as being a theatre correspondent for BBC London.

He grew up in Bristol, has worked on more than 50 theatre productions, and makes a return to Liverpool after his critically acclaimed version of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, set around the VE Day celebrations, appeared at the Playhouse last year.

During each visit to the city, however, he has stayed at the Adelphi hotel, gathering inspiration for a new musical, and he started researching local people’s recollections of the hotel immediately after his production of Shakespeare’s play.

Speaking at the launch of Once Upon A Time At The Adelphi, held in the hotel’s large boardroom, he said: “So many people met their partners at the Adelphi, had their wedding reception here, had their child christened here, had their 18th birthday here, all on the dance floor of the Adelphi. So, there are many brilliant stories to tell.”

Using real-life romantic tales, a host of exuberant characters, and a toe-tapping musical score, Willmott’s romantic musical journey is a much-anticipated addition to the calendar of events taking place during Liverpool’s European Capital of Culture year.

However, Willmott believes his new production is an ideal opportunity to enjoy a night out and anything else is an added bonus.

He explains: “Hopefully it is a big, enjoyable, romantic and funny night out. But if billing it as an important part of the Capital of Culture brings people in, then great, I’m really happy about that.”

Once Upon A Time At The Adelphi tells the story of two lovers during the time when Hollywood stars – traveling by luxury ocean liners – would visit Liverpool and spend a night in the city’s most fashionable hotel.

A cast of seven, including West End musical theatre actors Simon Bailey and Julie Atherton in the lead roles of Thompson and Alice respectively – together with eight LIPA students making up the ensemble – bring a mix of the glitz and glamour of 1930s Liverpool to the stage.

This heyday period, Willmott has uncovered, showed the hotel to be an attraction and a time when the city could project itself to the world.

He adds: “A starting point for this story came from a lady who wrote in about her auntie, working at the Adelphi during the 1930s, who would flirt with the big stars visiting, knowing full well what she was doing!

“Constantly through its history the hotel has played host to very important people. In our show we’ve got Clark Gable, Roy Rogers and a big Hollywood movie producer. So, there is a great history to this place in terms of stars who have stayed here.”

The story of the legendary cowboy Rogers riding his equally famous horse Trigger through the hotel’s main entrance will forever be told. Added to this tale, come other stories of The Beatles, Dixie Dean, Adolf Hitler and former Prime Minister Harold Wilson – all whom are affiliated to the Britannia Adelphi Hotel story.

Opening originally in 1826, the hotel was re-built in 1912 after being bought by Arthur Towle, making it become known throughout Europe as one of the great hotels.

The iconic building’s solid marble walls, indoor heated swimming pool, sauna and full central heating, was considered the pinnacle of lavish hotel accommodation.

“It’s amazing how the perception of this place changes decade after decade. I love staying here because it’s got so much character,” says Willmott.

He added: “People are really bored of those anti-septic and plastic hotels, which all look the same.

“I think there are all sorts of buildings and there is so much history in Liverpool, which can be celebrated.

“When I came to Liverpool a decade ago, there wasn’t that sense of celebration and there wasn’t that sense of looking forward. But it’s so buzzy at the moment and there are all kinds of stories waiting to be told.”

* Once Upon A Time At The Adelphi appears at the Liverpool Playhouse from Saturday 28 June until Saturday 19 July.

Phil Willmott, writer and director of Once Upon A Time at the Adelphi (picture taken by Paul Tsanos)

Phil Willmott, writer and director of Once Upon A Time at the Adelphi (picture taken by Paul Tsanos)

Actor Paul Barber launched a new national campaign in Merseyside this week to encourage people of all ages to join their local library. Without the resource facility, his own career would not have been as successful, he tells me.

Before he introduced National Year of Reading’s new campaign, the seasoned actor spoke about why he got involved.

“If it wasn’t for reading I wouldn’t have been able to become an actor or write my autobiography,” Barber says at the Central Library in Liverpool city centre.

Originally born in Ireland, he grew up in the Liverpool care system during the 1950s from the age of seven. His troubled upbringing became well documented last year, following the publishing of his autobiography Foster Kid.

On meeting Barber, he contrasts greatly to the tough and hardened person you’d expect judging him by his personal upbringing and recent film roles he’s portrayed.

Dressed in a black suit with receding hair – now almost totally white – and sporting rounded glasses, you’d be forgiven for mistaking Barber as a school professor. Nonetheless, his studious appearance suited our setting for the interview.

In his book, he delivered an honest and funny account of his colourful background and these attributes shine through when in conversation with him.

He was last seen on our television screens in The Invisibles, playing computer wiz Young Nick. The BBC drama ran for five weeks and it starred Anthony Head – the Prime Minister from Little Britain – amongst other actors of note.

“Yeah, working with Anthony, Warren Clarke and Jenny Agutter was great,” Barber says in his laid back, distinguishably deep scouse tone.

It was a role not usually associated with the 57-year-old actor, who is best known for playing Denzil in the classic comedy sitcom Only Fools and Horses.

He said: “I liked it because it’s about safe crackers, who come out of retirement and they’ve still got the touch, who were known as ‘The Invisibles’.”

Barber found solace in acting after leaving the care system and returning to Toxteth, where he felt more at home.

Following a chance audition for the musical Hair at the Liverpool Empire theatre, Barber was thrust into the entertainment industry and into an acting career expanding 30 years, landing parts in television series considered today as ‘TV classics’.

The role he played in Only Fools and Horses will forever be remembered, but he questions whether there will ever be sitcoms of this popularity again.

Barber said: “There is a lot of reality shows now and the comedy is so much different today as, say, from the seventies.”

This saturation of similar television programmes concerns Barber. He adds: “Things like Alan Bleasdale’s Boys From the Blackstuff or Play for Today – we need stuff like that again. 

“At the moment, we’re just getting things like Strictly Come Dancing, Strictly Dancing On Ice, Strictly come this or Strictly come the other!”

During the 1980s Barber gained further credibility by appearing in the British gangster film The Long Good Friday, alongside British screen icons Bob Hoskins and Helen Mirren.

But playing a working class male stripper in the hit film The Full Monty positioned Barber into a world-wide audience. Did he imagine the film would be a success?  “When I first read the script there was a scene, the moment I read it, which jumped at me off the page and I thought, ‘this is going to be hilarious’,” Barber explains.

“It was the dole queue scene and I thought if they do it the way it is written and the way I imagined it then it would be hilarious. True to form it was done just like that. Very funny.”

The Peter Cattaneo-directed film began a trend of low budget British films making it big in Hollywood. Barber, however, has a more political view on the subject: “I will always believe Margaret Thatcher put the mockers on show business. Actors weren’t allowed to have royalties anymore and stuff like that.

“Everything became low budget and everything I get offered now I’m being told is low budget, but what it basically means is that the producer can sell your product ten times over and they make the money, not you!”

Nevertheless, his performance as a nightclub doorman in the James Marquand-directed low budget film Dead Man’s Cards in 2006 confirmed his ability at portraying menacing characters. Something Barber noted after his latest role.

He added: “Normally you get asked to do parts that don’t stretch you, but the character I played in The Invisibles did and it’s one I’m not normally associated with. I think I’ve cornered the market in muggers and pimps.”

National Year of Reading’s Library Campaign is supported by all libraries across England. For further details visit www.yearofreading.org.uk.

Actor Paul Barber at Liverpool Central Library (picture taken by Tom Murphy, from Your Move article)

Actor Paul Barber at Liverpool Central Library (picture taken by Tom Murphy, from Your Move article)