Catherine Rice shines as the club singer looking to the stars while lugging her own speakers around
WINNER- Theatre Culture Award 2018, The Liverpool Echo.
Review by Jamie McLoughlin
About 10 years ago, someone in telly hit upon the idea of a pair of shows that were linked but different.
One was Moving Wallpaper, a comedy about the frantic scramble to get a new soap - Echo Beach - on air. Straight after Moving Wallpaper, an actual episode of Echo Beach was aired with some subtle in jokes bleeding through from the former into the script of the latter.
For some reason, this brave experiment kept coming to mind while watching the remarkable tour-de-force underway in the Royal Court basement until Saturday.
Our Bev’s Christmas Cracker is a one-woman show of two halves performed by the remarkable Catherine Rice.
Prior to the interval we have an earthy, warm monologue about a club singer preparing for her last gig after 30 years in the business.
Bev’s had a better career than most, from film and TV extra work to offers of cruise ship residencies and even a brief appearance on Corrie. But the phone call she is waiting for that evening could change her career for ever and propel her into movies.
Rice’s approachable, engaging stage persona, helped no doubt by her own experiences on the comedy and compere circuit, means she never gets lost in the monologue co-written with director Stephen Fletcher.
This is a production which knows its audience as the Court’s studio, fast becoming a venue to try out new writing before unleashing it on a wider world, becomes both sides of the Scotch Broth social club stage, complete with shimmering foil curtains and festive trappings. It’s well-written straightforward comedy with a worldly intelligence underpinning the humour.
Bev doesn’t hold back from telling all about the encounters with sleazy managers and showbiz impresarios which shaped her experiences with fame and is quick to laugh at herself as much as everyone else in a characterisation which brings to mind a Scouse Marti Caine.
It’s an analogy more prominent in the second half.
The shift from monologue to stand-up routine gives the production a welcome depth and it’s interesting to see some punchlines land after being seeded in the first half. Rice is a natural performer with a crowd and despite the acres of dialogue she has to wrangle, can still pause for some impromptu interaction with the crowd.
It’s also in this half we get to hear more of her singing voice as she treats us to The Temptations’ Get Ready and a smattering of audience favourites. Certainly vocals worth waiting for, it was enough to get some of the room on their feet.
It’s a solo show about a strong Liverpool woman dealing with life on her own terms so perhaps there will be inevitable comparisons to a certain Shirley but that would be unfair. Shirl is wistful and wants to escape the grind, Bev is a realist and is quite prepared to launch herself headlong into it.
This is only in town for a short run but for something more intimate with a lot of heart, soul and Merseyside wit, you’ll be glad you popped down to see Bev.
BELOW- The Guide, Liverpool, talks to Stephen Fletcher and Cath Rice about their festive adaptation of OUR BEV.