Trying emulate a show that has pulled in 175,000+ audience, set The Liverpool Royal Court up to do what it does best – unpretentious, Scouse-centric comedy – and has become a Liverpool byword for good time theatre is a tough task. All this and more is what Brick Up 2: The Wrath of Ann Twacky, currently running at The Liverpool Royal Court, has to contend with in regard to its predecessor, Brick Up the Mersey Tunnels. The question is does it come up to muster?The answer is a resounding yes.
Packed with more innuendo than a Christmas Special starring Frankie Howerd, Dick Emery and Mrs. Brown combined, this is a treat and a half to watch with the exemplary cast brilliantly taking things to whole new levels of silliness.
The tunnels are blocked, the Runcorn Bridge is rubble and The Kingsway Three have completed their mission. But The Wirral are not going to take this lying down! Led by Anne Twacky, a hardy bunch of the Wirralians are rising up and calling for Birkenhexit. They don’t want the tunnels back and they are prepared to go to extremes to keep them shut. They can do just fine on their own, thank you very much. Yeah, right!!
What writers Dave Kirby and Nicky Allt have managed to do here is quite brilliant. Ten years on from Brick Up the Mersey Tunnels, they have stuck to the original ethos of that sell out production – to give Liverpool audiences exactly what they want: a good belly laugh – yet turned out a much slicker, much sharper script.
The gags are not-so-subtle but (sometimes) beautifully disguised, yet the pace remains as relentless as ever. So relentless, in fact, the cast become so wrapped in different elements they themselves can be seen to corpse on more than a few occasions, which all adds to the fun of the night. It’s a bit more in yer face with its smuttiness too.
Top of the list are undoubtedly Andrew Schofield and Eithne Browne. Their dyed-in-the-wool warmth bubbles from every pore in the roles of Tricky Dickie Lewis and Ann Twacky. Roy Brandon’s “butched up” Dennis Twacky is an absolute joy (particularly when being a Tony Soprano wannabe ) and Paul Duckworth’s Gerard Gardner is much more to the fore.
Carl Chase brings the narration to life through some brilliantly delivered songsmithery, Suzanne Collins trying to be posh café owner / Scouse exile Maggie is almost worth the ticket price alone and Danny Burns’ now-nasty Eliot Neston – a role previously played by Adam Keast – gives the show as much of an edge as is necessary: a panto villain to delight in.
And then there is Francis Tucker’s performance as Liz Card. Where to begin? S/he’ll scare the willies out of you, that’s for sure, and Tucker’s penchant for drag (he is a regular pantomime dame just up the road at The Everyman) soars to new hilarious heights as this voracious, blue rinsed, Father Ted loving man eater goes all out to get her way.
The music and lyrics are genius – wait until Dickie tells you where Bin Laden was hiding all that time – and Howard Gray’s musical bearing combined with Bob Eaton’s overall direction and Billy Meall’s wonderfully designed set all make for what can only be described as being explosively good fun for a the entire two hours.
Brick Up 2: The Wrath of Ann Twacky
The Liverpool Royal Court
January 27 – February 25
Authors: Dave Kirby & Nicky Allt
Director: Bob Eaton
Cast: Eithne Browne, Andrew Schofield,Paul Duckworth, Francis Tucker, Roy Brandon, Suzanne Collins, Carl Chase, Danny Burns, Emily Linden
Running Time: 2 hours
PR RATING: **** Hodloads of Laughter