Review: YNWA, The official story of Liverpool Football Club at the Royal Court Theatre

By Nigel Smith

 SINCE it first appeared at the Royal Court in 2011, this show has delighted audiences both here and on tour in numerous revivals, and now it’s back at The Court as LFC celebrate their 125th year.

Nicky Allt’s funny and affectionate telling of the club’s history is told to a soundtrack of songs from the terraces across the decades, right back to its foundation in 1892. Pauline, Tommy and their family have just scattered granddad’s ashes on the pitch at Anfield, and now they’re holding a wake at The Twelfth Man. The younger family members don’t all have quite such an encyclopaedic knowledge of the club as their grandfather had, and they set about setting the story straight.

With various members of the cast and onstage band taking on the roles of players, officials and fans from years gone by we get a detailed and surprisingly informative history lesson. Sounds dull? It could easily be, but in the hands of this creative team it turns into a great evening’s entertainment.

Whether you’re a football fan or not, it’s impossible not to be swept up in the passion and enthusiasm, and there’s something here for all age groups too. Even the eldest aren’t going to have direct memories of the earlier episodes, but there’ll be parts of the story that will resonate with every member of the audience.

The Royal Court has developed what is almost an in-house repertory company over the years, and many of the regulars are back onstage. They don’t fail to disappoint those who expect a good dose of their usual irreverent humour, but with the play based on material that’s practically a local religion they also get away with some serious acting here too. Look out for some powerfully moving solo vocals from Lindzi Germain and Jamie Hampson along the way, as well as impersonations from many of the cast as they recreate some familiar figures.

Talking to one of the creative team after the show, we spoke about the parts of the show that remembered Heysel and Hillsborough. “When we created the show, we knew we could mess up just about anything except that bit.” I was told – and it’s true – if those aspects of history had been insensitively handled it wouldn’t have gone down at all well, but there was nothing to fault here. Without a hint of sentimentality, these tragedies were recounted with dignity and respect, and special mention must go to Lindzi Germain for her moving performance here.

Obviously this is a show that will have special relevance for LFC supporters, but it’s been put together to ensure that it’s entertaining even for the least sporty of tastes. Dare I say that I even spoke to a supporter of a rival football club from a few miles up the M62 who had been deeply surprised to enjoy himself!

YNWA – The official story of Liverpool Football Club – is at the Royal Court until October 28th.

As a postscript, it’s worth mentioning that the after-show chat mentioned above took place at an after-party in the newly opened Courtyard Bar and Kitchen, which the Royal Court have created from what used to be the New Penny Farthing next door to the theatre. With panoramic views of St George’s Hall and beyond, and interiors designed and built with the help of the theatre’s scenic team, it’s a great addition to Roe Street. The bar offers a good selection of beers, wines and spirits, including local cask ales, and the restaurant has a great range of small and large plates, platters, light bites and bar snacks. Open daily from midday till late, the Courtyard is a great new venue for passers-by and theatregoers alike.