Writers: Tony Furlong and Jimmy Power
Director: Bob Eaton
Reviewer: Jamie Gaskin
Night Collar is not so much a play as a carnival – a carnival of sketches parading a host of over-the-top characters resonant with its local audience. The series of sketches/vignettes are linked by a taxi cab that takes centre stage to ferry these people to their destination while the audience nod and cheer as they recognise the foibles of the type of characters who populate their daily lives.
It’s now over 20 years since Tony Furlong and Jimmy Power wrote this play. It is credited with being the pioneer of a whole swathe of Liverpool humour plays. Furlong died last year and is not able to see this, the latest of several revival productions, to be staged.
Anchorman in this celebration of Scouse culture is the cab driver, a lugubrious and resigned figure played by Alan Stocks. It’s Christmas Eve but the seasoned driver knows there are no tidings of great joy for him. A convincing performance added and abetted by his bemused face.
Slightly updated from its 1990s origins the script is ripe with earthy – not to say lavatory – humour. Generally it’s as brash as a hen party. Much of the wit is “home groan” and makes little pretence to being original. But among the lewd and the crude is Eithne Brown’s touching cancer patient who is unable to cope with the festive fun and hijinks all around her as the city celebrates Christmas Eve. A moving understated performance that does not choke us with sentimentality.
Other than Stock the remaining cast of five slide in and out of a number of characters. There’s lots of applause for Jake Abraham’s tribute Elvis, who cannot resist a chance to show us how well he can mimic the King’s singing. His flatulent Santa is just what the cab driver does not need. Any more than he needs Abraham’s Wino who keeps pestering him for money.
There is a wonderful double act between Stocks and Brown when she plays a cabbie’s widow. Brown recites in detail the steps that led to the death of her husband and the poor driver recognises himself at every turn. His expressive face is a delight.
Suzanne Collins has lots of fun with the prostitute who wants to pay her fare in kind while the talented Michael Ledwich excels as the cool-dude drug dealer and the colourful transvestite. Lenny Wood has the delicate task of making a man on crutches struggling with a taxi funny without offending. But his best part is probably as the stag party victim left virtually naked by his so-called pals. He’s the kind of young actor audiences would like to see more of – but I don’t think the censor will allow it.
A fun ride to take.
Runs until 13th June : Photo – Bond Media