Review – Love, Liverpool – Playhouse Theatre

LOVE, Liverpool started life as a digital project during the lockdown of 2020, which invited the people of Liverpool to submit their stories about what makes the city special for them. It attracted stories, sounds and images that, while individually are love letters to the city, collect together into a bigger picture.

This new stage show is a compilation of these words, sounds and pictures, woven together into a rich tapestry, with additional material from the show’s creator, Chloë Moss. The result is something that proves to be much more than the sum of its parts.

Helen Carter, Chloë Clarke, Aron Julius, Nathan McMullen and Jennifer Varda take turns in the spotlight to carry the individual narrative threads, occasionally coming together in ensemble segments and often accompanied by some of the original recorded source dialogue. From travelling to James Street on a Merseyrail train to trying to enjoy a solitary drink in the Volley in Waterloo, a combination of projected backdrops by Tracey Gibbs and Xenia Bayer’s multi-layered soundscape complete the atmosphere as the scenes roll into each other.

Yes – it’s a love letter to Liverpool – but all true lovers embrace the faults of their love as well as their strengths. So it is here, as the storytellers recount the rough edges of the place as well as its glories. Never hesitating to tell the full story, many of the darker moments in our shared history are remembered alongside its high points. This way the show as a whole never becomes mawkish and feels more like a genuine memoir than a chocolate box picture.

There are many strong performances in the show, with all the performers clearly deeply invested in the text, but there are some standout images that will remain fixed on the memory, In particular that of Nathan McMullen who delivers one of the segments in which the work shows its perfect balance of love and brutality.

A friend lamented to me the fact that the soundtrack isn’t filled with the music of city, but for me this is one of the show’s biggest strengths. Far from cherry-picking the things that the whole world knows it’s special for, Love Liverpool paints a far more personal picture – one that will be understood and felt most deeply by those of us who have the Mersey coursing in our veins.

Love, Liverpool continues until 14th August with a socially distanced audience, so those who are still nervous about returning to live theatre can see it with confidence. Tickets are available here.

Segments of the original digital project can still be enjoyed online here.

Star rating – 4.5
Review by Nigel Smith