Fred Lawless delves deep into the stereotypes affiliated to Liverpool in his new comedy play A Fistful of Collars, mixing fashion with crime and scenarios that fall onto the brink of the absurd.

Set in a dry cleaners in Wavertree, two sisters Eileen (Eithne Browne) and Pat (Pauline Daniels), along with employees Leona (Lindzi Germain) and Billy (Lenny Wood), find themselves in a tricky situation once they take the decision to turn the business into a dress hire shop.

The plan all seems simple and straight forward but they can’t avoid the one single problem facing them. Landlord Curtis Jones (Jake Abraham) wants to increase the rent and uses his sexy assistant Sally (Suzanne Colins) to bother the cleaners for it.

The comedy is brought through the rubbery expressions of Wood as the thick yet not-as-stupid-as-you-think character Billy, and the fantastic Daniels whose comic timing is razor sharp.

The cleaners and Billy are soon the talk of the city and attract one particular customer who is very familiar, not only in Liverpool, but also for her love of fashion: Coleen Rooney.

The wife of football star Wayne does not, however, make an appearance in this play but is played by the young actress Charlotte Harrison making her professional debut, who spends a majority of her time on stage with a clothing bag placed over her head.

The cleaners accidentally kidnap Mrs Rooney, who has come back to collect her favourite Stella McCartney number now being repaired having been worn and nearly hired by Curtis’ assistant Sally. Collins as Sally certainly grabs the audience’s attention - particularly the male attendees - as she spends most of her time on stage in her underwear revealing every angle of her fabulous figure.

The cleaners have knocked Sally out with some gas spray in order to get the dress back to Coleen, but in the meantime they have also captured a Policeman (Alan Stock) sent by Coleen who finds the cleaners in possession of a gun and bag of cash belonging to Sally, who is tied up along with Coleen at the end of the first act.

Will Coleen return to Wayne and be reunited with her clothes? How will the cleaners avoid being prosecuted by the Police? Why has Sally got a gun and cash in her bag? Bob Eaton’s direction has the cast all battling for the spotlight as the answers to the above questions become revealed.

The action never moves from Mark Walters’ clever set which depicts the back of a dry cleaners shop with a steel-type frame keeping it together formed into the shape of a clothes hanger. Another clever technique used is a projection screen showing what is supposedly the back of woman’s dress which zips up and down for scene changes and between the ending of the first act and start of the second.

A catchy version of Dolly Parton’s ‘Jolene’ to the tune of ‘Coleen’ is thrown to get the audience singing along, but Lawless can’t avoid the boring jokes associated to footballer Rooney relating to his facial features and incident with a prostitute. Nonetheless, they still get some laughs.

A Fistful of Collars ends in a rather predictable manner and entertains more so for its slapstick comedy rather than its plot substance.

-Michael Hunt