Thursday, 2 May 2019

REVIEW: My Fairfield Lady at The Royal Court, Liverpool

Liverpool’s Royal Court is a creative hub for new, Scouse* writing, that attracts audiences from all around the city. As writer and executive producer of the theatre, Kevin Fearon’s new production, based on Lerner and Lowe’s 1956 musical ‘My Fair Lady’, certainly fits this bill, but does this story need a somewhat makeover, not too dissimilar from the lead protagonist herself?

Set in our modern day of 2019, Lizzie Ripon, and her feisty co-worker Steph, run a posh florist in Liverpool One, in desperate need of some financial gain. On the flip side, the McDermott family are about to lose the mother of their family, Julie, and are leaving son, Higson, a large sum of money if he can find himself ‘a good Scouse woman’ to settle down with. Lizzie and Higson hit it off, but Lizzie needs to convince the family that she’s a ‘proper Scouser’ to win the jackpot, which friend and expert, Steph, helps with.

The cast include some Royal Court regulars, including Michael Starke as Alf MsDermott and Helen Carter as Steph. Both actors give a classic zest of the Liverpudlian charm to this show, packed in nicely with some real and touching moments. This is shown in particular from Starke in the latter stages of the story. Carter provides drops of comic relief, which is delivered with confidence and a punch. 

Unfortunately, Danny O’Brien as Higson lacks energy and power for the stage with his portrayal. His direction seems stilted, with him placed in the middle of the stage on a number of occasions, with no real purpose or objective- a real shame considering the calibre of work he boasts. 

Love interest, Jessica Days as Lizzie Ripon is a touch of class amongst the Scouse chaos. She takes her character on a journey, showing both the comedic side, balanced nicely with her truthful portrayal of a woman in crisis. A highlight is the final scene in Act 1, in which Lizzie is transforming into the caricature she’s been asked to be. Her comic timing and commitment to the scene is commendable, and reads well to the audience. 

The set is a highlight within this production. The modern, sleek revolve, allows
actors to swap from the hospital room, to the florist and further afield. The idea is good, but the execution needs work. The revolve causes for lengthy scene changes, as the set has to be moved upstage to land on the turn table before it moves, helped by stage hands dressed in relevant costumes- slightly less slick than initially planned. In addition to this, a sound bite of a wordless melody line sung by some of the actors is played as set is moved, which seems disjointed and a far cry from the story itself. This breaks up the action, and takes audiences out of it completely. 

Although this story is resolved in the end, and the relevant message of ‘be yourself’ strongly sent out to its audiences as they leave the theatre, it still, however, lacks depth and integrity. Some of the areas that are brought up within the show are truthful, but it is shunned with a blanket of cheap gags and unrealistic ideals. This could work within the artistic world its being placed in, however by setting it in such realistic circumstances, its hard to believe that this story would actually be a viable one to not only tell, but stand as credible. 

If you’re looking for a cheap night out, a Liverpool’esque story, and some Royal Court regulars, My Fairfield Lady is a good way to spend your evening. However with elements of truth disguised in a masquerade of Scouse humour, it doesn’t quite match up to the highly acclaimed and successful musical it took its inspiration from. 

*Scouse: the dialect or accent of people from Liverpool, short for Scouser.

Review by Victoria Morris 

Rating: ★★

Seat: Stalls L3 | Price of Ticket: £19 per ticket
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