If Opportunity Knocks was still was going the fabled Clapometer might have found itself pressed into service at the Royal Court. While critical response to its default Scousey Plays might not match up to some of Liverpool’s more lauded theatres, audience response would surely see it romping into the final.
Five-star reviews of The Scouse Nativity from Liverpool websites, liberally peppered with ‘boss’ and ‘sound’, are a bit hard to swallow but the knockabout, foul-mouthed fun is hard to resist. Taking a leaf out of the rock’n’roll panto at the Everyman, this is a Liverpool-themed panto with music – but it’s decidedly not for kids. Bare bums, blue language and a character who loves nothing more than a finger… buffet set the tone early on.
With Drew Schofield as a shepherd and Paul Duckworth as Herod there’s plenty of scene-stealing and scenery-chewing. And while the willing audience may not require much prompting – Schofield walking on stage and deadpanning an F-bomb is frequently enough to inspire whoops of delight – there’s a lot to admire in Scouse Nativity.
The heritage of the performers – boiled down to a de facto rep over the last few years – is beyond question and while there’s frequent corpsing and sideways glances to the audience, there’s a winning physicality to the production, directed by the West End’s Cal McCrystal. There’s a silly sand dance and there’s Lindzi Germain on kirby wires – and Duckworth’s take on Norman Wisdom. Writer Kevin Fearon never baulks at throwing another ingredient in the pot and while a bolted-on Jeremy Kyle coda is unusual it’s very much in keeping with the production.
With a live band and choir – and wonderful set in the shape of a folding book whose pages introduce new scenes, Scouse Nativity is more evidence of the Royal Court simply doing its own thing and thriving. Standing ovations are uncommon things in theatreworld – we’ve managed precisely one in about 20 years. But the audience weren’t shy in showing their appreciation and we can certainly get behind a Liverpool theatre packing them and and sending home hundreds of scousers with a smile on their faces.
The Scouse Nativity
Royal Court Theatre
Until 13 January