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Lucky star

Tommy Kearney brings his latest play, Madonna and Me, home to Liverpool, trailing glowing reviews from its London run. Heather Smith strikes a pose

Published on January 17th 2008.

Lucky star

"Thatcher Out," "LFC" and "Mandy loves Dingo" reads graffiti on the brick walls of the set. It's 1984, in Whiston.

You are young, probably on the dole, and a football shirt is your biggest form of identity on the street. But what's there to worry about when you've got great friends that you can hit the Fusilier with on a Friday night?

In this heart-wrenching and hilarious tale, Madonna and Me, we follow a tight group of friends on their coming-of-age journey from the school disco, and watch as the individuals develop, and the threads that have always bound them begin to slacken.

Friendship, betrayal and loyalty are at the core of the plot. "What is friendship?" asks James Templeton, who plays likeable Adam, as the play, fresh from opening to great reviews at London's Union Theatre, begins. In his sub-role as narrator, he guides us through the story, returning to his initial question as the landscape of lust, love and loss unfolds around us.

The volunteer-run theatre, with comedian Pauline Daniels at the helm. is made up of just ten rows, creating a cosy, in-your-living-room atmosphere, and to which the cast perform brilliantly.

Joe (Russell Morton) and Dingo (Lee Clotworthy) do particularly well in making the quick switch from hanging around in Sayers to being in a formal job interview. The stage just about manages to accommodate the size of the well-choreographed Vogue routine - a big hit with the audience.

The trip to Wembley is another highlight as Adam, Paula (Annmarie Hodson) and Mandy (Suzanne Roche) give almost a weeks wages to see the Who's That Girl tour. The trio manage to deliver the excitement, anticipation and enjoyment of the concert, as if on a stadium scale, a sly sing along to Open Your Heart is simply unavoidable.

As well growing up with Madonna's cutting edge soundtrack – "Who wants to listen to ABBA? They're so antwacky" – her influence as a fashion role model is subtly portrayed through lace-cut jeans, crucifixes but, most notably and comically, through the Holiday head-scarves that make up the girls outfits at the school disco. It is the release of the Vogue video, however, that ends up changing Adam's life forever.

Expect interval chatter, over a glass of complementary wine, along the lines of "It takes me back to when I was younger" and "Remember when we used to go there." This is the play's success: it is genuine.

Kearney tells a simple story of a journey so recognisable to many - and, more to the point, he tells it well. The script glides from funny-school-kid banter to much deeper troubles and traumas without a hitch. From the outset, this is a play that seems proud of its roots, proud to be on home turf and so it should be.

SCOUSE Productions is presenting Tommy Kearney's Madonna and Me at the Liverpool Academy of Arts Actors Studio, 36 Seel Street, Liverpool - until Saturday, February 2, 2008. Tickets: £12 (Cons £10). Box office on 0151 709 9034

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