Set, almost incidentally, in 1960’s Liverpool against the backdrop of a dockworkers and seafarers strike, Red Ladder’s Sex & Docks & Rock ‘N’ Roll is a rollicking musical comedy told through the antics of the proudly dysfunctional and disruptive McDermott family.
Led by the indomitable matriarch Jean and the layabout radical Ronnie, a man so amply upholstered that he is often indistinguishable from the armchair he lives in, the McDermotts bicker, squabble, dance and sing through the trials and tribulations of post-war working-class life.
There are a few problems. The narrative doesn’t so much arc as blip and the characters are painted with a particularly broad brush. For example, Ronnie is part Jim Royle, part Alf Garnett and part Wolfie Smith. It’s no coincidence that these are all sitcom characters as the production feels like an extended Carla Lane comedy with added songs, and despite the anarchic aspirations the world portrayed feels extremely familiar and comfortable.
Irrespective of this, the whole show is overwhelmingly engaging and inclusive. The multi-talented ensemble cast attack the piece with infectious energy and total commitment and the many songs by Boff Whalley are expertly crafted. A truly feel-good evening, impossible to resist.