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Billy Elliot

Morris (Liverpool)

By • West End
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The very idea of certain things is comical. Take Morris dancing for example, and some would add - yes, a long, long way away. Female Morris dancing, however, seems more like American cheerleader routines. Alas, when the cast performs a neatly executed sample in Helen Blakeman’s rollicking new play, directed by Indhu Rubasingham, it has the audience in stitches. More fittingly, many lines are laugh out loud.

Peculiar (and ain’t that le mot juste) to the North West and Wales, this is also known as “carnival” or “fluffy morris”. Thus craftily does playwright Pearson Award winner Blakeman expand our knowledge, from “Our Lady All Angels” troupe leader Margy’s opening speech at the Championship in Prestatyn, praying to come first and retain the title. And anybody in the arts will appreciate the sub-plot about the necessary evils of funding. Even more, Blakeman has the grace to let us make up our minds; life never does provide easy answers. For example, it’s plausible that dancing is everything to Margy if children cannot be.

On Mike Britton’s amazingly ordinary set - a littered grassy slope, blue sky arched overhead (doubling up as a screen to show the troupes in all their glory) – we’re initiated into the mysteries, the closeness, rivalries and politics of group relationships. Stalwarts Sarah White and Tina Malone, are skilled foils as control freak Margy, and the feckless trainer, Lily, taking credit all round.

They are remarkably complemented by a young trio. Laura Dos Santos is heartrending as Donna, as terrified of her new baby as she is proud, then rejuvenated by dance. Given the chance, Leanne Best’s Sharon could be a lot more enterprising than making a buck flogging cheap cigarettes. And Kay Lyon Lily’s ‘favoritised’ daughter, Jamie-Lee, has stroppy teenager off to a T. Any mother will recognise her expression.

Though moot whether The Morris would also pack ‘em in outside the region, the unusual topic is skilfully utilised and should touch a chord wherever a sense of tradition and family still count. New writing is often regarded as too risky, but here the risk is rewarded - with this cast and this writer, the Everyman is on to a winner.

- Carole Baldock


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