Andrew Wright

Andrew Wright

The beautifully intimate Unity Theatre on Liverpool's Hope Place recently hosted comedy play Omnibus, which ran until last week.

The play, produced by the Royal Court Theatre in association with Unity Theatre, is advertised as a 'farce', and the anarchic quick-fire, and oft slapstick comic set pieces, reminiscent in style at times of Fawlty Towers, would certainly lend itself to this billing.

Furthermore, the inter-gender house-sharing concept, with all of the action taking place between the male and female protagonists in the confines of a living room, certainly evokes fond memories of classic 90s farce sitcom Men Behaving Badly.

Indeed, the pace never lets up. Testament to the writing of Katie Mulgrew, and the quality of the talented actors involved, the dialogue and interaction between characters is witty and well-executed. And even when a joke falls flat, as they inevitably do sometimes in a play of this nature, an instantaneous humorous retort or quick comic observation has the audience back on side.

The young talent involved in this play, which is a winner of the prestigious Hope Playwriting Prize, deserve an enormous amount of credit for carrying the action, which relies on their slick synergy with each other. And their comfort of working together and trust in each other is palpable.

Crucially, and refreshingly, all of the five main characters are given equal footing in the production and sufficient lines and character depth for each and every one of them to make a lasting and endearing impact on the audience.

The play focuses on three twenty-somethings sharing a house being rudely interrupted from their Sunday mundanity of making a roast and watching the telly by a hapless bank-robber on the run.

Alice Bunker Whitney plays half-cut jilted-at-the-altar Lauren, who shares her now-greater mortgage repayments with old university pals Mark (played by Joel Parry) and Nell (Gemma Banks), who, it is clear, have unfinished romantic business. This is news to Mark's girlfriend Jess (Eva McKenna), whose 'sexily stupid' persona ensures she stays oblivious to most of the action unfolding around her, which often make for very amusing results.

The interplay between the four is energetic, fun and at times hilarious. Their timing is spot-on, and the action, as a result, is delivered at a frenetic pace, which leaves the audience howling with laughter at some junctures and gasping for breath at others. However, it is Danny Burns who steals the show as loveable, unwitting bank robber Leslie. His stage presence, facial expressions and comedic aping provides the play with its major laugh out loud moments.

Notable cameos come from the legendary Eithne Browne, who is a comic whirlwind upon her entrance, and a rubber mask of Margaret Thatcher (whose ridiculing of is always appreciated by a Liverpool audience). Her appearance in the form of a rubber mask, and implied 'sexy-time' role play with said mask, ensured a hearty laugh from the audience, who revelled in the poking of fun of the late 'Iron Lady'.

Omnibus does not always hit the mark comedy-wise, which can be attributed to the sheer volume of dialogue, although when it does the results are hilarious. The play is at once funny, energetic and moving. The characters are relatable and garner real empathy and endearment from an audience that ultimately invests in them and wants to see them happy (apart from Margaret Thatcher, obvs!). Omnibus is, overall, a triumph, and befitting for a venue with the warmth and charm of the Unity.

Monday, 12 June 2017 16:59

Wife's Quiet Contemplation in Paradise

This is my favourite ever photograph of my wife (and not because it’s of the back of her head). Joking aside, in the 9 years since I first met my wife, there have been many snapshots that encapsulate facets of her personality, like images of her laughing with carefree abandon, or tender photos with her children, showing her proud, maternal side, or our wedding day, where her beauty shone on an otherwise rainy May Saturday in 2014.

 

However, this photo is the one image of my wife I treasure the most. And the reasons for this are multiple. Firstly, I could make the obligatory parallels between the stunning location and the beauty of my wife. I could also draw metaphorical comparisons between her and the ocean. Like the sea, she can be tumultuous, unpredictable and feisty. But she can also be composed, thoughtful, and a calming influence, something she has certainly been for me in a difficult past couple of years.

 

I also love that this is her favourite place. This was taken in Mexico, and owing to getting swept up in the excitement of the holiday, and revelling in the postcard surroundings, this was a rare moment of contemplation, that I, far from being the most adept photographer in the world, somehow managed to capture.

 

To know my wife is to know that she quickly becomes the life and soul of the party who loves meeting people and becomes fiercely loyal once an acquaintance has been promoted to friendship. Knowing my wife how I do, however, I know how she is also incredibly sensitive, at times very guarded, and also (unjustifiably) unsure and overly-critical of herself.

 

Which brings me to the overarching importance of what this photo represents. It is a small glimpse into the wider context of her life at this time. Always painfully self-deprecating, she believed that leaving school with only a couple of GCSEs signalled her out as stupid. But she has intelligence in spades, and a real passion and verve for making a difference in people’s lives. But what she has in these areas she severely lacks in self-confidence and belief. However, post-holiday, she was about to embark on a journey back into education that would take her from resitting her GCSEs to completing a Master’s in Social Work. This photo, I would like to think, was my wife Kerry standing on the precipice of something unbelievable and life-changing. I would like to think, knowing how she has her quiet contemplative moments, that she was standing in paradise, looking out at the vast ocean, finally realising that the world is hers if she wants it, and she subsequently finished her daiquiri, got on the plane home, and took it.

 
Wednesday, 24 May 2017 18:52

A city united in remembrance

This is an article I wrote for a website called YB News, in the wake of last year's Hillsborough inquest...




A generic-looking building on an unassuming industrial estate in Warrington was last week the scene for arguably the greatest victory in judicial and footballing history. The verdict of unlawful killing of the 96 Liverpool fans at Hillsborough in 1989 was the culmination of a brave, unwavering 27 year battle by the families of the victims. It was belated confirmation of what this remarkable set of people, and indeed the city of Liverpool, knew all along. It was a truth, which for far too long was an uncomfortable inconvenience for those in a position designed to ensure nobody should ever attend a football match and not return home. It was overdue vindication for the families, for their children’s, son’s, daughter’s legacies, legacies which certain organisations and publications set out to besmirch and dishonour in the most abhorrent manner possible. It was the truth. It was justice at last.

The overriding emotion in the wake of this verdict is pride. Pride in a city that refused to lay down and accept the hateful smears the last 27 years have heard. Pride in the dignity, bravery and humility shown by a group of people who refused to give up the fight.

Margaret Aspinall, chairwoman of the Hillsborough Family Support Group, said after the inquest:

“We went through every legal avenue possible knowing that vital evidence was being held back. To then see it, knowing they knew it was there all along, was sickening in the extreme.”

The spirit shown by the families of the 96 fans lost on that dark April day 27 years ago is a shining example of refusing to be silenced by those grossly in the wrong. The emotional scenes at St George’s Hall last week were a snapshot of a city, red and blue, united in remembrance. But it was also a poignant reminder that this is a truly remarkable city, a city that will continue to remember and celebrate the lives of the 96. It was a reminder that the despicable tarnishing of their memories by supposed powers-that-be will not be tolerated.

Undoubtedly, now that justice has been served, accountability must be tackled, and with a transparency severely lacking from the last inquests. Those whose negligence contributed to this tragedy must be brought to task. Moreover, a similarly pertinent issue that needs to be addressed is how a case of this magnitude, a case that has remained prominently in the national consciousness, has been painstakingly dragged over 27 years. Each year that passed was a year too long for the families to continue suffering in the knowledge that their loved ones were not getting the justice they deserved. Every time Saturday afternoon came around, when the 96 should have been joining their fellow supporters in making the pilgrimage to follow their team, was another week the families were denied closure. Surely, questions need to be asked as to why it has taken such an obscene amount of time for justice to be served. It is imperative these questions are answered, so that such miscarriages are never repeated again.

It is a sentiment echoed by Labour MP Andy Burnham, who has been vehemently vocal in his support for the families’ quest for answers:

“At long last, justice for the 96, for their families, for all Liverpool supporters, for an entire city. But it took too long in coming and the struggle for it took too great a toll on too many. Now those responsible must be held to account for 96 unlawful deaths and a 27-year cover-up. Thankfully, the jury saw through the lies and I’m sure this house will join me in thanking the jury for their devotion to this task and giving two years of their lives to this important public duty. When it came, their verdict was simple, clear, powerful and emphatic. But it begged the question, how could something so obvious have taken so long? Three reasons. First, a police force which has consistently put protecting itself against, over and above protecting people harmed by Hillsborough. Second, collusion between that force and a complicit print media. Third, a flawed judicial system that gives the upper hand to those in authority over and above ordinary people.”

The past week has seen the news that South Yorkshire Police Chief constable David Crompton has been suspended following the inquest amid concerns over his conduct during the case. Though a step in the right direction, it is scant compensation for the years spent and tears shed fighting for justice. It is of paramount importance that the unrivalled determination shown by the families serves as a basis for the manner in which cases of this scale are dealt with to be reviewed. It is vital that their victory signals wholesale changes, so that the unforgivable lies and mistakes, which have dominated this inquest, are never repeated again.

The scenes in Warrington last Tuesday, and in Liverpool throughout the past week, have brought into sharp focus how an extraordinary group of people has refused to lie down and swallow the lies they were fed. The Hillsborough families continued to maintain an astonishing decorum of dignity, and passionately fought for justice in the face of continuous setbacks and ludicrous lies. The conduct of the families during the past 27 years has truly been inspiring, and has served as a shining example of the strength of the human spirit. They have shown the country how the power of a relatively small group of people searching for the truth in the face of ridiculous, wholly avoidable adversity, will finally get it, albeit 27 years too late. The families have ensured justice for the 96, and last week the people of Liverpool helped ensure they will never be forgotten.