A Fistful of Collars at the Liverpool Royal Court

Posted on 27 July 2016
By Chris High
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It’s been six years since Fred Lawless wrote A Fistful of Collars for The Liverpool Royal Court stage. A tale of gangsters and dresses for hire set on Wavertree High Street, it fits nicely into the pantheon of not only what Fred has written for the theatre (his is the magic pen behind each of the Christmas shows since 2010), but also most of that which has been produced by the theatre since it so breathtakingly blew open its doors with Brick Up the Mersey Tunnels.

With its vast turnout of comedy plays since, there have been remarkably few duds to its name (I won’t mention Eight Miles High or, indeed, The Flags. Promise): true testament indeed to The Royal Court’s ability to spot a winner.

Take a look at Fred Lawless’s own Merry Ding Dong, Dave Kirby’s Lost Soul (which returns in 2017), Drew Quayle’s The Salon, the exquisite Golden Oldies of earlier in the year or the fabulous The Royal from just last month and you’ll see that each has a common factor: yes they’re all silly and yes the action and language can be “bawdy”, but above all the story’s the thing … the important vehicle that carries the laughter and, as a result, the night.

Not that A Fistful of Collars has a poor story or is any way unfunny, how could it be with Fred Lawless writing, Bob Eaton at the helm and this cast of Court Jesters giving it their all? Such is the quality of the majority of Royal Court shows of late, though, the anticipation now is that the theatre provides something that’s a bit more extraordinary: a line you’ll be repeating for weeks for instance or a particular scene to recount during elevenses … the “and that bit when” moment you tell your mates about the next day.

Despite its best efforts neither of these elements really come about unfortunately so that what’s left is a sort of Carry On film on Valium.

The cast are very good but are somehow comfortable in being so. Lenny Wood plays Billy who is just about every character you’ve ever seen Lenny Wood play at the theatre and, naturally, he plays it extremely well. Alan Stocks plays a nice-but-dim Special Constable.

Eithne Browne is the ‘Mother Figure’ of the proceedings. Lindzi Germain is the one with the good ideas that go bad. Angela Simms is the wannabe fashion designer with big dreams and little talent. Jake Abraham is the menacing baddie. Suzanne Collins is a woman on a mission who has her plans so nearly foiled. All pretty mainstay no matter how well they are delivered, which undoubtedly they are.

There is lots of screaming (particularly in the second half), lots of innuendo, lots shenanigans and lots of silliness, but sadly not a great deal of fizz it has to be said, which is a shame. With some careful honing, A Fistful of Collars could easily be a £50 a time deluxe wash of a comedy, rather than its current mid-range Zanussi that’s sadly stuck on permanent rinse and waiting for the injection of a good old fashioned romp on full spin to kick in.

The set, as always here, is a delight (look above the stage) and Bob Eaton’s direction is, as always, spot on. It is just that the whole play could be done, dusted, dried, pressed, on its hanger and in the bag well inside of its two hours. This in itself is strange because although A Fistful of Collars is fun, it is so in the same comfortable way holiday post cards raise a giggle then get placed behind the clock until the Christmas deccys go up.

A Fistful of Collars
The Liverpool Royal Court Theatre
July 21 – August 20, 2016
Writer: Fred Lawless
Director: Bob Eaton
Cast: Lindzi Germain, Eithne Browne, Alan Stocks, Lenny Wood, Angela Simms, Suzanne Collins, Jake Abraham
Running Time: 2 hours
PR Rating: *** Spinning


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