The Best Shows of the Last Decade at Everyman & Playhouse

Date: 11/01/2020

Imagine a Liverpool without the Everyman & Playhouse; the city’s cultural heartbeat gone. To us it would be like a Liverpool without LFC, The Beatles, purple bins. Unthinkable.

We’ve been pondering this since a chat with Gemma Bodinetz, artistic director at the E&P for 17 years, detoured into a discussion of our favourite shows.

We’ve been going in one guise or another since the last century and have seen most of what the two Liverpool theatres have produced ever since, plus a good wedge of touring shows.

It hasn’t always been plain sailing but Bodinetz’s time at the helm, previously with Deborah Aydon as Executive Director, is seen as something of a theatrical golden age.

It being the start of a new decade and on the verge of a brand new season at the E&P that sees the return of Ghost Stories, one of our picks in the list below, we’re celebrating some of the highlights of the last ten years.

In no particular order here are twelve slices of theatrical brilliance the two theatres – all original productions or co-productions – have given us, along with our thoughts at the time.

Chances are we’ll never see anything like them again. There will always be new versions, but casts, crew and visions move on. Perhaps that’s so magical about a visit to the theatre – the chance to capture something unique in imperfect glory, before it disappears forever.

The Tin Drum

“The Tin Drum is irreverent, anarchic, ridiculous one can only marvel at how it all fits together. With a soundtrack as diverse and apparently dissonant that The Mighty Boosh would baulk – in addition to vernacular straight out of a BBC3 sitcom – it’s a giddy alchemical soundclash.”

A Day In The Death Of Joe Egg

“For all of Bri’s coping mechanisms he’s reached the end of his tether – and the audience has walked into the play to find him at breaking point, with ramifications that are both hilarious and tragic, usually at the same time.”

The Matchbox

“From the opening tableau to the closing moments of the play, Leanne Best gives a performance of such visceral power that it stings the eyes with emotion and sheer force.”

The Alchemist

“Remove the verbosity of The Alchemist and there would be little to suggest that this wasn’t a modern farce, but somehow the old and the new, with Robert Icke’s deft touches, combine to create something beyond time, text or form.”

A Streetcar Named Desire

“Amanda Drew’s performance as Blanche Dubois is simply the best we’ve ever seen on the Playhouse stage – and that is some compliment indeed.”

Othello

“Gemma Bodinetz’s adaptation is the latest in the current season of the Everyman Rep, with an ensemble juggling roles and plays over four new productions. And while there’s no crashing symbolism in Othello’s gender swap, there are more intriguing dimensions afforded to a character whose otherness is intrinsic to the play.”

Ghost Stories

“The visuals, audio beds, sound stings and general creeping sense of dread pervade the action on set and break through the fourth wall, infecting the theatre itself. There are genuine stabs of fright, the creeping-flesh slow burn of dread and a genuine style and verve to it all.”

Tartuffe

“The theatrical event of 08, Tartuffe is Roger McGough’s masterwork. Forget the sputtering fountains outside – this is language that dances, fizzes and splashes: verse that’s elastic, gymnastic and utterly fantastic.”

The Pacifist’s Guide To The War On Cancer

“It’s as if by interrogating the language, culture and politics of cancer Bryony Kimmings has been drawn into the horrible realities of the disease – an author swallowed by her creation.”

The Big I Am

“This chaotic, cosmic Scouse fairytale is brash, lewd and frequently laugh-out-loud funny. But it’s no wonder The Big I Am comes with an age restriction. There’s sex, masturbation, drugs and – most horrific of all – audience participation.”

The Rivals

“What might you get if you crossed Blackadder III with a dash of bedroom farce and a wallop of Millennial entitlement? This perfectly-formed co-production of The Rivals at the Playhouse might come close.”

The Norman Conquests

“As familiar as a Sunday night in front of the television. As funny as the funniest Britcom scenes you can think of. As irresistible as a short, bearded bloke with the horn.”

The Rock’N’Roll Pantos

We hope not even the cast and crew would object if we suggested the annual rock’n’roll pantomimes, written by Sarah A Nixon and Mark Chadderton and variously staged at the Everyman and Playhouse over the last ten years during the former’s renovation, become hard to distinguish from one another over time.

But that doesn’t negate their brilliance. And despite Tucker’s absence in 2019, his partnership with Adam Keast is perhaps the defining feature – so it seems right to acknowledge the part they’ve played over the last ten years too. We interviewed the lovely pair in 2013. It was bawdy, bonkers and brilliant. You wouldn’t want it any other way.

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