It’s nearly ten year since Dave Kirby’s Lost Soul made its debut at the Unity Theatre. Since then it’s spawned plenty of – usually inferior – successors, but it still has the ring of authenticity. It’s a play about Liverpool rather than a Liverpool play and while there re plenty of soft lads and shithouses to go around there’s real heart here.
Kirby’s programme notes detail two chance encounters, as first his pals take him on a whistlestop tour of a lesser-known side of Liverpool. They take in The Beehive, The Vines and other pubs that connect Mount Pleasant, Lime Street and Ranelagh Street, where 60-somethings dance the night away to Motown and Northern Soul every Sunday night.
There the pals come across a lonely woman who has been stood up by her new boyfriend, having previously walked out on her husband. The meeting stuck with Kirby, who observes that while these retro Sunday nights were all about reliving their youths for some, they’re also ‘where lonely people headed’.
It’s the tension between the two that makes Lost Soul so compelling. With Drew Schofield and Lindzi Germaine returning in the lead roles of Smigger and Donna, empty-nesters who are ‘more like brother and sister’, there are plenty of belly laughs.
However a subplot concerning the fracturing relationship between the former’s best mate Terry, and the latter’s sister Pat is mined for its inherent melancholy. In their own way, they’re all lonely people.
In their own way, they’re all lonely people.
Not that it gets in the way of of the humour. It’s frequently bawdy, knockabout and it doesn’t always raise a chortle but the hit-rate is good and the cast are talented enough to give even the flattest line a sheen. Lenny Wood as a dopey barman mugs and La’s his way through every scene he’s in, while the usual references – The Sun, the Wirral, the Penny Farthing (currently being redeveloped as a bar and kitchen by the Royal Court) – are welcomes like old friends.
It might be almost a decade since Lost Souls debuted but it has lost nothing in that time. These Royal Court plays are a slick machine these days and Kirby’s play – still the people’s favourite, he says – has an edge over the productions it’s since spawned. It’s got soul and it’s a lovely little time-capsule portrait of Liverpool that anyone who knows the city will recognise.
Royal Court Theatre
Until 8 April