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Theatre review: Anthology/Everyman Theatre

Philip Key takes pot luck and ends up in a graveyard

Published on October 4th 2010.


Theatre review: Anthology/Everyman Theatre

ON my way to the Everyman I passed a chap wearing a colander on his head; a few yards later I saw some blokes carrying canoes across the road. Aha, I thought, this must be the Everyman’s latest attempt at street theatre.

The previous evening, one party had even encountered the regular Shiverpool ghost tour which must have been even more baffling

Anthology, created with the Leeds-based theatre company Slung Low, is offering seven different plays, all performed in the streets and open areas around the theatre.

Inspired by the Everyman’s current production of ‘Tis Pity She’s a Whore, seven different writers – most of them Merseyside-based – were commissioned to write the plays involved.

And all of the plays are being performed at the same time.

Obviously playgoers can only see one at a time so the event has been turned into a bit of a game. When you arrive you roll a dice to see which of the seven plays you are going to see, given headphones and an object, ranging from a feather to a spoon and then ushered into the auditorium.

This bit is all rather jolly as one at a time, a character arrives, gives a brief introductory speech and then gathers his or her audience and marches them out of the theatre.

I was given a torch, which meant my story was Unquiet by Lizzie Nunnery: her character, Grace, had had a father who had been the last in a family of stonemasons and she had arranged to meet this missing father in a graveyard.

So we walked down Hope Street while she pointed out examples of the stonemason’s art – she wore a head-microphone which was connected to our headphones – and we finally arrived at St James’s Gardens, the graveyard attached to Liverpool Cathedral.

Stonemasons carving names left the souls of those people in the stones, Grace had explained on the way.

It was dark down there, hence the torches, and we stumbled around the gravestones while a disturbed Grace (played by Emily Pithon) suddenly found the voices of those buried talking to her (and us!).

The tales mostly dealt with people who had kept quiet about dreadful deeds with unfortunate consequences, the quarry man who knew pit props were rotten, the husband who found his wife having an affair with her brother, a supposed mutiny, and so on.

There was a lot of talk on which to concentrate, and it was often difficult to hear through the industrial-style headphones while negotiating hidden roots, stones and such like in the dark. I nearly lost my footing several times.

Smoke billowed on occasion, there were ghostly choral numbers from The Sense of Sound and the Grace character got more and more anguished. The voices, incidentally, were provided by such well-known actors as David Morrissey, Jonathan Pryce and Tom Georgeson.

The setting provided a natural eeriness to the stories and it was undoubtedly an experience even if, by the nature of the event, it was all a bit hit and miss.There was a surprise ending after which a policeman with a dog (the dog was real, the cop an actor Hugh Skinner) showed us the way back to the Everyman.

Back at the theatre and having handed back our torches and headphones, the interest was naturally about what other parties had seen and where they had been.

In We Sing Faster In The City by Matthew David Scott, it appears that audience had followed a milkman picking up bottles in nearby streets; another lot had been led around the Liverpool University campus by a busker and treated to a bowl of scouse in Lawrence Wilson’s Cardboard Guitarman; some had gone to a nearby church in Esther Wilson’s Not Welcome; and some had even been invited into a local house in A Word Doesn’t Exist by Robert Farquhar.

Some had had better experiences than others – the headphone sound had produced problems elsewhere – but most reported that death had been a regular theme in the plays.

They were, after all, inspired by John Ford’s 17th Century classic ‘Tis Pity She’s a Whore which has its fair share of death.

The general view was that it had all been an unusual adventure.

Of course, you have to endure the stares of passers-by as you march down a street in convoy wearing headphones and clutching a bottle, feather, spoon or torch. They seemed totally perplexed, particularly as the accompanying sound equipment is pushed alongside you in a sort of pram.

The previous evening, one party had even encountered the regular Shiverpool ghost tour which must have been even more baffling.

As for the chap wearing a colander and the people carrying canoes, they did not feature in any of the stories. It seems they were nothing to do with Anthology, just locals going about their usual business.

Liverpool is getting more like New York every day.

7/10

i,>*Anthology is running until October 30, alternating with ‘Tis Pity She’s a Whore.

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