Father O’Flaherty Saves Our Souls at The Liverpool Royal Court

Posted on 25 October 2016
By Chris High
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We all know about Father O’Flaherty. Drunken womaniser of Scouse Pacific, Little Scouse on the Prairie and who was first introduced to The Liverpool Royal Court in Merry Ding Dong in 2009. Well now the loveable rogue is back in his own show, written and performed by the bloke that makes O’Flaherty, Alan Stocks. Though whether a full 2 hours of the good father’s shenanigans makes for good comedy, rather that the twenty odd minutes – literally, at times – is something else.

We discover the poor misguided priest with his time running short as the Bishop has heard of his antics and is now pushing for his expulsion from the Church. With the Bishops visit looming, Father O’Flaherty has to show how up on all things spiritual outside of a Bushmills he really is and prove that he is the right man for the job.

Of course there are nuns and housekeepers and the occasional frolic, song and dance routine involved, but what ensues is just one step shy of Carry On, yet two steps closer to Father Ted in its quality.

In short, Father O’Flaherty Saves Our Souls delivers on silver platter everything we have come to love about Royal Court productions. Yet with that said, this show seems to have seen the bar that’s been set by the likes of first Shed, penned by Michael Starke and Paul Broughton, and The Royal, penned by Lindzi Germaine, Angela Simms and Lynn Francis, and matched it.

Alan Stocks would have every right to have felt a little bit nervous this time around. It doesn’t show though. Indeed, so good is his performance it is difficult to see where the man ends and the character begins, such is the natural warmth that exudes from the frocked philanderer.

Superb, too, as the “nuns” Sisters Harley & Davidson, are Helen Carter and Keddy Sutton. Both are Court stalwarts and whatever they appear in, there’s always a glow of joy and warmth left in their wake. With Sutton given free rein to knock out some pretty wonderful impressions – I won’t say why – and with Carter allowed to let loose and remind us of her singing prowess, these two are a match made in, ahem, heaven!

Then there is Clare Bowles as the good father’s housekeeper Mrs. Ruby and O’Flaherty’s nemesis, Father Devlin. Yes, the characters may have more stereotypes than Richer Sounds, but what the hell. Both actors are exquisite in delivering what they do best and never once let the pace drop when on stage together.

A special mention should also be made of the set design created by Olivia du Monceau. The foldaway house that turns into a church during the interval is a magnificent piece of work. Added to this are the lighting designs created by Ian Scott, which casts darkness and light in all the right nooks and crannies, whilst also brilliantly setting the mood. Indeed in combination, design can be said to be the equal of that which takes on stage and both deserve all of the plaudits they receive.

Packed with laughs, groans, raunchiness and innuendo, Father O’Flaherty certainly can take his adventures beyond 20 minutes. A little too far past, it might be said, because a bit of pruning to the burning bush would undoubtedly make it an even more fulfilling experience. That said, however, this remains feisty, frolicsome fun which is the main thing after all.

Father O’Flaherty Saves Our Souls
Liverpool Royal Court
October 14 – November 12, 2016
Author: Alan Stocks
Director: Bob Eaton
Cast: Alan Stocks, Helen Carter, Keddy Sutton, Paul Duckworth, Clare Bowles
Running Time: 2 hours
PR RATING: 4/5 Shine A Light