The Ticket to Write Festival is an annual showcase of original plays based on The Beatles. 2016 is the fifth year and tonight, Ace Drama Productions, brings us ‘Drums Along the Mersey’ and ‘Shake It Up Baby’.
Drums Along the Mersey by Peter Harrison
A sentimental look at Pete Best, the fifth Beatle and Mona, his mother, known by some as the Godmother of the Merseybeat.
The play centers around the memories of Pete in the present, played by Mike Newstead, who speaks directly to the audience sharing his recollections of those early days.
The emotion and time of the play was felt deeply by this Liverpool audience, mostly consisting of adults of a certain age. In fact the opening monologue became more of a dialogue with the audience as they anticipated and answered the rhetorical questions!
The acting was, overall good, the cast being united in purpose, tone and ability. Together, with a simple set and minimal media, they brought this familiar story to life.
It was the final scene that caught my attention the dialogue between the Pete of the past, played by Daniel Murphy, with the one of the present. It was a conversation that held no malice, no regret but with a hint of resignation and acceptance.
I warmed to The Beatle that remained, he stayed near his beloved Mersey; he was the fifth Beatle but he will never be forgotten.
North West End Rating: ★★★
Shake It Up Baby by Suzan Holder
Set in the present day, we meet Bev Wilson, a middle-aged Beatles fan who is being hounded by the press, we then find out why in the course of the play.
Bev, played by the fabulous Jackie Jones, is lonely and decides to give internet dating a try with very mixed results. Jackie has great comic timing and real pathos, creating a very funny and believable character - I recognised a few of my Scouse friends in her portrayal. Her initial dates, played by the very versatile Julian Feria, are instantly recognisable comic caricatures and are complete disasters. The scenes had the audience roaring with laughter and applause. Finally, Bev meets Scott, played by the very suave Neil MacDonald, and they hit it off but Scott is not all he appears to be.
Later on we have a mirrored scene with Scott and his dating disasters, played by the very bubbly and talented Hayley Hampson. The audience were really warmed up by this time and peels of laughter and applause resounded once again; some of the audience members even began to sing along to the music being played between scenes, which were mostly The Beatles’ greatest hits.
I really loved this play, yes it had many clichés but these were easily overlooked thanks to the perfect pace and sense of fun. For me, the icing on this very delicious cake was the audience, I’m not sure it would have played the same in any other city.
A thoroughly enjoyable evening at the theatre with plays connected to the Fab Four, sorry Pete, and Five; in the city where is all began.
North West End Rating: ★★★★
Reviewer: Alan Harbottle
Reviewed: 23rd September 2016