I have recently moved back to Liverpool while I save for my next big adventure to India, as it is neigh impossible to save in London. During the time I have been back I have been lucky enough to be able to immerse myself in the growing theatre and performance scene.
It is widely agreed that London is the theatrical epicentre of the United Kingdom. However, Liverpool’s four main theatres; the Everyman, the Playhouse, the Unity and the Empire. Really do give the big smoke a run for its money. There are many perks to seeing theatre and producing it in the north, the most obvious of which being affordability. The new production of Elf the Musical, that came to the west end this Christmas is charging £240 for its top seats and the cheapest falling in at £62. I do not have to say much here to illustrate how outrageous this pricing is, when you can grab a ticket for the famed Everyman Rock ‘n Roll Panto for £16 quid. Moreover, for prospective theatre companies and artists Liverpool is also an accessible and monetarily savvy place to let their creative juices run free. The unity has four adaptable spaces that they hire out for personal, community and theatrical use at reasonable prices.
In light of all of these points about how fabulous the theatre is in Liverpool. Here is a quick run down of the four main spaces.
The Everyman and Playhouse
They come as a double headed female ran, power house. As one of the leading regional theatres and the only one to be ran by females, the duo see many of the well renowned fringe companies tread their boards. The artistic director Gemma Bodinetz and executive director Deborah Aydon have created a theatre that is not only community conscious but have an incredible back catalogue of new writing. Both women have histories with the Bush Theatre that specialises in new writing so it seems like a logical move that they prioritise it. Most recently Simon Armitage’s adaptation of Homer’s Odyssey premiered at the Everyman, receiving mixed reviews. However, isn’t that the beauty of new writing, causing debate within theatre goers and reviewers alike?
The Everyman Bistro is home to Liverpool’s most popular spoken word night A Lovely Word. Paddy Hughes presents a free monthly open mic night that draws a crowd of all ages and interests. The cosy setting of the bistro allows for a relaxed platform for first time speakers and the large crowd adds a sense of performance for the more practised poets. The bistro also hosts The Liverpool Jazz club on the first Wednesday of every month from 7.30-11pm. It includes performances from the house band and inclusive jam sessions with the audience.
Location – 5-11 Hope Street, L1 9BH
What's on - Playhouse William Golding's Lord of the Flies
Everyman Peepolykus's The Massive Tragedy of Madame Bovary
Smaller than the Everyman and Playhouse but has been staging radical accessible work since the 1940’s The Unity Theatre movement, along with many theatre clubs, started to disappear with the abolition of licensing in the 1960s as mainstream theatres met the demand for radical theatre. Merseyside Unity Theatre survived into the early 1980s with one of the last initiatives to develop the current Unity Theatre on Hope Place, to convert the former synagogue from a photographic studio to a theatre. After Graeme Phillips’s 34 year long run as the Artistic director and CEO of the Unity, in 2015 Matthew Linley took the reins of the small but mighty theatre. He has big plans for 2016. With the closing of Liverpool’s beloved Kazimier there is more focus than ever of the Unity to continue to provide experimental and innovative art work for the culture hungry Liverpudlians.
Location – 1 Hope Place, Liverpool, L1 9BG
What’s on – Lip Service’s Move Over Moriarty
The grandiose Empire theatre which looms over Liverpool's culture square has a less alternative vibe than the other theatres and showcases the big touring productions, most recently Shrek and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time.
Location - Lime St, Liverpool, Merseyside L1 1JE
What's on - The Rocky Horror Picture Show
As stated before, the above are where most theatre can be found. However, Liverpool is littered with smaller venues for artists to create and showcase work. Pretty much every pub or cafe across the city has open mics, comedy nights, live music, yoga, poetry, interactive film, life drawing, you name it, it can be found here.
The Camp and Furnace,
FACT (Foundation for Art and Creative Technology),
The Arts Club, Seel Street,
... to name a few. Click on the names for the website links.
It would be blasphemy to finish this piece about Liverpool without further mentioning the Kazimier. The Kaz has been a cultural hub for arty, lefty Liverpool since it opened its doors around seven years ago. The redevelopment of Wolstenholme Square by the Elliot Group has been protested over the past three years however, sadly as we know, there is no stopping gentrification and the Kazimier closed its door for the last time on New Years Day just gone. The send off was quiet indescribable with giant marionettes, a cryogenically frozen Captain Kronos, a world of toilets, rituals, disco and a space ship that actually took off. One thing is for sure, the Kaz will live on, plans have been put in place for independent projects as well as a new space for the team to play out their fantasies of pandemonium.
A statement was realised by the Kazimier shortly after the announcement of its closure;
“The Kazimier club began as an artistic project. From the explosive theatrical parties of its early years to its current standing it has grown to infinitely more than a building - it’s home to a brilliant team of staff, collaborators, promoters and the community in Liverpool and beyond that have contributed to the club in so many ways. We would also like to thank the recent public support that has helped extend its life-span”
We have always known the the UK's independent music and performance venues have been under threat. The closure of the Kazimier and Manchester's Roadhouse venue in 2015 have shown us that it isn't going away any time soon. However, like always there is hope and it feels wrong to end what is a celebration of the cultural hub of Liverpool on a negative point. Creativity will always find a way and it has a habit of turning up in the strangest of places...