Forget William Wordsworth’s “London 1802” and Louis MacNeice’s wistful “London Rain”. James Brough and Helen Elizabeth’s The Pool - City of Culture? is a charming stage elegy for the young and restless in Liverpool.
This 2006 Edinburgh Fringe transfer written and performed by Brough and Elizabeth sees displaced Londoner, David (Brough), penniless and stranded in Liverpool following a failed flirtation. He is quick to catch the eye of feisty dog-track bookie Tina (Elizabeth) who obliges him first with astute betting tips and then a full day of city sightseeing. Inevitably the pair bond over the impressive view from Liverpool’s lofty cathedral and later while admiring Antony Gormley’s “Field for the British Isles” at the Tate. But it takes beer and dance-floor embarrassment to suppurate tales of first flings and broken homes.
As their playful conversations drift from disabled siblings to abortion regrets, it soon becomes clear the pair have more in common than a tendency to address the audience via lyrical asides and rhyming couplets – an exercise parallelling the poetry of language with poetic fate.
Despite her diminutive appearance beside bulky Brough, Elizabeth provides a far more nuanced and authoritative performance. While Brough punctuates statements with nervous half-laughs and physical jerks, Elizabeth rounds Tina’s outward confidence with thinly veiled melancholy. She is the mystery to Brough’s cliché, withholding just enough to intrigue an audience and draw David. To his credit, Brough’s “restless wandering fearless lad” has enough clumsy appeal to validate Tina’s enthralment.
With a set limited to the odd chair and table, The Pool relies exclusively on its two leads and written verse, which is tidy and pleasing to the ear. Tina’s defensive wit is especially entertaining. While limited in its emotional engagement, this piece is without doubt a spirited account of two ordinary people coming together and, for one “lucky day”, sparkling.
- Malcolm Rock