Liverpool’s Royal Court theatre has announced the first half of its 2009 programme with an aim of building on its triumphant return to staging popular theatre.

Following a successful 2008 when more than 150,000 people came through the doors, Royal Court Liverpool have more popular comedies planned.

Beginning the year is the much heralded return of Slappers and Slapheads. Len Pentin and Fred Lawless’ comedy, set on Valentine’s night at the notorious Palace Night Club, is back following sell out successes in 2003 at the Roe Street-based theatre and in 2004 at the Liverpool Empire.

Gillian Hardie and Mike Neary from the original cast are joined by Helen Carter, who appeared in Adelphi The Musical at the Liverpool Playhouse, Warren Donnelly from Channel 4 series Shameless, Alan Stocks, who appeared in Tartuffe at the Liverpool Playhouse, and Keddy Sutton, who recently appeared in Stags and Hens. Fans of the original will be delighted to know local radio personality Pete Price returns in his role as nightclub DJ with live appearances until 18 February.

Slappers and Slapheads is followed by the comedy Dirty Dusting by Newcastle writers Ed Waugh and Trevor Wood. Gladys, Elsie and Olive are women of a certain age, working as cleaners in an office to bring in enough money to get a ham shank on a Sunday and some nice presents for the grandchildren. But their lives soon change. Their ageist boss, the man who put the perv into ‘supervisor’, wants them out and agency staff are being called in to replace the old heads.

A chance phone call gives the girls an idea of how to get filthy rich in their final weekend. Packed with double, triple and quadruple entendres, this is a show suitable for dirty old women of any age.

A Liverpool classic returns as a part of the Liverpool Comedy Festival. Willy Russell’s Shirley Valentine will be whetting everyone’s appetite for summer. Local actress and comedienne Pauline Daniels is once again the star of the show with her tales of youthful excitement, middle age dread and holiday romance.

The season is neatly wrapped up by Irish comedy The Flags. Greg Hersov, artistic director at Manchester’s Royal Exchange, comes to Liverpool to direct this dark comedy about two Irish lifeguards whose deluded dreams of a Baywatch lifestyle are replaced by harsh reality under the slate grey skies of rural Ireland. JJ and Howie, feckless and gormless respectively, are out to impress the Directorate of Leisure Services and win promotion from the second worst beach in Ireland to be lifeguards on the best stretch of sand in the country. They plan to do this by remaining eagle-eyed, vigilant and hiding all of the dead seagulls. Described as Father Ted meets Steptoe and Son, Royal Court Liverpool believes it will be the hit of the summer.

Kevin Fearon, chief executive of Royal Court Liverpool is looking forward to 2009 and more independent success. He commented: “We’ve had a very successful 2008 and are building on strong foundations for 2009 and beyond. We are bringing the best of local and national writing to Liverpool and these shows will all meet and exceed the high standards that we set ourselves. It is a pleasure to have Willy Russell back in the building and it is a real coup to have Greg Hersov direct here. Fred Lawless and Len Pentin are back with a great piece of comic theatre and Ed Waugh and Trevor Wood’s Dirty Dusting will be a real treat. As always, we aim to provide the best for our audiences and they can trust us to send them home happy.”

Royal Court Liverpool 2009 season:

Slappers and Slapheads - 6 February-7 March

Dirty Dusting - 13 March-11 April

Shirley Valentine - 23 April–9 May

The Flags - 29 May–27 June

Brick Up The Mersey Tunnels – 10 July-22 August