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A Grand Gesture (Liverpool)

Carole Baldock sees "A Grand Gesture" at the Liverpool Playhouse, which she says "at the very least is a most unusual concoction"

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
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The Russians are coming … first, Dostoyevsky, and now Nikolai Erdman's play, The Suicide; everything depends on whether you were conquered by what you saw, and this has been adapted, chock full of bleak, black humour, into a riotous, raucous free for all.

Likewise, the ramshackle set; surrounding a boarding house room is a long, broken down wall, a structure like NYC's Flat Iron building, plus an Eiffel Tower shaped window, with what looks like a crash landing plane overhead. Plus Northern Broadsides' itinerant musicians happily popping up everywhere.

The hapless hero, no job and no prospects, is so desperate he thinks a musical career will lead to fame and fortune … But once he decides to end it all, a bizarre assortment of characters descends, to exploit him for the sake of religion, politics, economics, and even True Love.

Michael Hugo is wonderfully versatile as Simeon Duff, ricocheting from despair to delirium, comically aided and abetted by his better half (well, she does have a job), Mary (Samantha Robinson). Angela Bain, as her superstitiously religious mother, Sadie, foul mouthed and malaprop prone, is a hilarious turn amongst the other entertaining characters/ caricatures.

And all are excellently portrayed, particularly the cynical Catholic priest (Alan McMahon), the solemn postman who insists everything is from "a Marxist point of view" (George Timms) and the pompous, posturing intellectual (Robert Pickavance), a role in which one can easily picture Barrie Rutter himself.

So, does it end in tears? Well, a lot of the audience were nearly hysterical with laughter throughout. At the very least, this is a most unusual concoction.

- Carole Baldock