Best And Worst Of Times
For Liverpool’s Theatres?

If Liverpool knows anything it’s how to put on a show. With half a dozen major theatres in the city centre alone, the Everyman & Playhouse and Royal Court – to name just a few – are major cornerstones in Liverpool’s cultural economy. But times are changing for the city’s theatre: radical changes are afoot; from programming to rebuilding; arrivals and departures. Money is tight and stakes are high. In a time where theatres are having to fight to demonstrate their continued relevance, threats to some are opportunities to others. So what does the city have to do to safeguard its theatres – and what do audiences want in 2019 Netflix Britain?

“Liverpool is such a pulsating city and for us the question is how can we make work that excites our audiences?”.

As artistic director of the Liverpool Everyman and Playhouse, there’s hardly been a dull moment in Gemma Bodinetz’s entire 15-year tenure. There have been some glorious highs, but the Everyman is currently riding out one of the toughest times in its history. With its stark financial problems made public last year, the threat to a much-loved city institution was laid bare. However, its struggles in the current climate are far from unique.

Liverpool’s theatre ecology is something quite distinctive; a well-developed network of venues offering entertainment of all shapes and sizes, from hugely commercial crowd pleasers to avant garde on the fringe.

But as the public’s tastes and spending change – and funding becomes ever-more elusive – how is our theatre scene working to stay relevant and keep people coming back for more?

From the cluster of the Everyman, Unity, LIPA and fringe venues lining Hope Street, to the domineering, evocative lights of the Empire on Lime Street, from the experimental to the international, all theatrical life is here; it’s always been a place where people are driven to create and make things happen.

The Liverpool stage has played a pivotal role in the careers of everyone from Dame Judi Dench to David Morrissey, from Ken Campbell to Kim Cattrall. From Willy Russell’s Blood Brothers to Ghost Stories, for decades our theatre has produced talent that has gone stellar, and since Liverpool’s 2008 Capital of Culture year, the enthusiasm to improve and protect our arts spaces has only increased, rather than faded away.

In theatreland, the Royal Court and Unity have raised the money for significant refurbishment works that have regenerated their buildings. The council-owned Epstein, nee Neptune, was revived with a cool £1m back in 2011; The Everyman won the Stirling Prize for architecture following its ground-up refurb in 2013. Millions of pounds of funding and private investment have improved Liverpool’s theatres over the last few years.

However the time and effort taken to reach such dramatic, transformational targets is really only the beginning.

In the last 12 months alone, the fortunes of the Everyman and the Epstein have taken dramatic turns, while the Royal Court has become a shining example of… well, pretty much everything, it turns out. More fringe venues have buckled under their pressures and called it a day, while the Hope Street Theatre arrived on the scene in the nick of time to rejuvenate the grass roots.

So what’s it all about?

And what might happen next?

Arguably the definitive Liverpool theatre, times are changing at the Everyman in a way that has surprised outsiders, and thrown a spotlight onto the paradox between having an international reputation for making critically acclaimed work, and financial viability.

The Everyman is the theatre that produces the work that projects us onto the UK stage; making the Liverpool shows that gets reviews in the broadsheets and make the rest of the country pay attention, from Pete Postlethwaite’s Lear to Cynthia Erivo’s Puck. Jonathan Pryce’s 2009 turn as Davies in Pinter’s The Caretaker went on to tour New York and Australia, and it didn’t start in the West End, but here with us.

Aside from such major star turns, our headline-grabbing productions might win awards but don’t automatically equate to bums on seats.

There have been two major recent changes to highlight this. Last year the Everyman voluntarily revoked its status as one of the Arts Council’s biggest National Portfolio Organisations in the country – with its commitment to the revival of a repertory-style ensemble at the heart of the problem, stretching its finances and resources to “tipping point”. Two months previously, executive director Deborah Aydon had stepped down to “pursue fresh opportunities”, ending a high-profile 15 year partnership with Bodinetz.

It was news that was met with shock and deep sympathy from contemporaries up and down the country, hugely aware that given the state of the arts today, it could have been any of them. Could the Everyman’s experience be the “canary in the coalmine” for the theatre industry as a whole, pondered a concerned former Guardian critic Lyn Gardner.

“It feels particularly sad that after 15 years making the Everyman and Playhouse work, when others before her had tried and failed, Bodinetz should now find herself leading an organisation with such a rich history but whose future is uncertain,” wrote Gardner in a fretful article for The Stage.

The facts and figures: As an NPO, the Everyman received £1.65m a year subject to meeting various conditions, and this was set to continue as part of a four-year period up to 2022. Now, it will still receive the same amount of money, but operating outside of being a portfolio holder means it must put an action plan in place for moving forward. Although there’s a lot of work to do to get back on track, the impression given from anyone with skin in the game is the Everyman is surely too big to fail.

Gemma Bodinetz Liverpool Everyman
“How can we make work that excites our audiences?”
Gemma Bodinetz pictured at the Everyman Theatre. Picture: Dave Evans

Gemma Bodinetz, ever an optimist, maintains what has happened is an opportunity – an exciting one, even – to rethink what theatre is. There is, she says, a “huge shift in the landscape of subsidised theatre” regionally and nationally at the moment, down to a combination of factors including the trickle down of austerity, the Arts Council’s own budget cuts and changing tastes. The Everyman is now planning the decade to come, which, as in any sector, is hardly an easy task.

“Ten years ago for example, you wouldn’t have foreseen Brexit, or Netflix, or the arts coming out of the [school] curriculum in such a way – so thinking about the next ten years at the Everyman and Playhouse is really hard,” Gemma says.

There had been a weight of expectation on the ensemble model – using the same, versatile cast of actors and creatives each season, all turning their hand to everything from musical theatre to kids shows and Shakespeare.

Despite the high quality and critical reception to the shows – Golda Rosheuvel won a 2018 UK Theatre Award for her role as a gender-swap Othello – and the parallels to be made with the Everyman’s classic ‘rep’ days in the 1970s that began the careers of Bill Nighy, Julie Walters, Pete Postlethwaite et al, it clearly didn’t prove to be the attraction that was hoped. The model was put on pause two years earlier than planned due to the financial strain, the details of which have not been made public.

The idea of the rep was a calculated artistic risk that didn’t pay off, itself a response to the need to find a new way of working and to attract audiences. Ever tried, ever failed, and all that.

Unfortunately, one of the knock-on effects of that has been a real pull-back on in house productions – just one a year now, aside from the indefatigable Rock ‘n’ Roll panto – and with that, the opportunities for those in the industry that come from it.

Whatever happens next, there is still much to be proud of. For Gemma, the escalation of the work of YEP (Young Everyman & Playhouse) is a major success – not only putting on their own diverse productions across the city, but training and nurturing young people in all facets of theatre making to build careers in the industry, whether on stage or behind the scenes. “YEP graduates are making theatre everywhere now, and can really take the city somewhere,” she says.

But for now, refocusing after the ensemble and trying to make the theatre resilient, more diverse, and relevant for the years to come is the priority – something that they admit may have suffered while focusing on the unprecedentedly massive project of the new build in the first place.

“I’d like to think the quality of our work has rarely been in question,” Gemma says. “Theatre has to redefine itself – and so it should. The bigger questions are about how we respond to changing tastes in how people spend an evening. People don’t want to sit through three hours with an interval like they used to – they enjoy immersive theatre, and young people enjoy things like Secret Cinema, and Instagram-able experiences… do we need to be thinking of other ways to be telling stories? How can we make work that excites our audiences?”

While the Everyman has its work cut out trying to anticipate the new, over at sister theatre The Playhouse, some classic revivals and stage adaptations of bestsellers and big screen films have been real hot tickets – “well-made plays done well”, as Gemma puts it. Their co-production of The Kite Runner has done the rounds several times, and this year’s touring stop-off of Samantha Womack’s The Girl on the Train was a complete sell out, with the recent revival of Abigail’s Party a similarly inspired choice, and the likes of Amelie the Musical and Little Miss Sunshine coming up.

Sometimes, of course, you want to stick with what you know, and the Empire is where you’ll always find the big hitters and perennial crowd pleasers on national tours, from War Horse to Dirty Dancing or Phantom. Today, it is part of the massive, money-spinning Ambassador Theatre Group (ATG), the company behind some of the biggest West End theatres – and is seen as one of its priority venues outside of London for huge touring shows.

But for a very big, very Liverpool night out, one place really delivers above all else.

The team behind the Royal Court built up their now £11m venue from the humble beginnings of the Rawhide Comedy Club. And without their intervention the Court, a former music hall and latterly gig venue (a riot at a Beastie Boys show there in 1987 made headlines around the world), might quite likely have faced demolition.

Now, it is a Grade II listed building, held up by the Arts Council as an NPO venue that is, against all odds, thriving thanks to the loyalty of its audience – and they’re not the type of people you’d find setting foot in any other theatre. Their brand of escapist Scouse comedies mightn’t be highbrow, but these days the venue is producing more of its own brand new work than anywhere else in town.

Kevin Fearon Royal Court
“We bring in a demographic that other theatres in the city don’t.”
Kevin Fearon at the Royal Court. Picture: Dave Evans

And it probably goes unnoticed that they are putting a variety of new writing on that big stage without it being an issue worthy of promotion. The draw for the Royal Court’s audience is sheer entertainment, to the extent it doesn’t quite matter who’s doing it.

It all started with taking a chance on a new play called Brick Up the Mersey Tunnels in 2006 – a broad comedy about the Liverpool-Wirral divide with a cast of chippy underdog characters, songs and panto-style silliness. Throw in the option of a pre-show meal in the auditorium and a bar you can see from the stage, and the Royal Court hit on the formula of providing everything you need for a night out under one roof. Over several runs, Brick Up has played to more than 175,000 people.

“Our audience is not like a normal theatre audience, and they won’t suffer a show they don’t like. If it doesn’t entertain them, they can do that themselves down the pub, so they’ll walk out,” says executive producer Kevin Fearon. The Scouse comedies, by and large, hit that spot. Shows like Night Collar, Lost Soul and The Royal run again and again.

Fearon convinced a sceptical lady and her group of friends from leaving during the interval of a performance, only to see her cutting her losses during the second act and flicking him the Vs on the way out.

When they have tried other things, the audience has trusted their judgement even if it hasn’t always worked out. He recalls a time he thought he’d convinced a sceptical lady and her group of friends from leaving during the interval of a performance, only to see her cutting her losses during the second act and making her feelings known by heartily flicking him the Vs on the way out. You don’t get that at the Playhouse.

The Royal Court’s audience has a loyalty all its own – and as a largely low-income, working class group with little interest in other theatres, they demonstrate what the Arts Council call ‘protected characteristics’ akin to race and gender. The theatre’s hits are word-of-mouth successes, and they’re proud that their regulars trust their programming.

“We bring in a demographic that other theatres in the city don’t,” says Fearon.

“We’re quite important to the Arts Council that way, because everybody pays into it. They have focused on middle class, established theatre and entertainment – but it’s something everybody should enjoy, and it’s their job to give the arts to everybody.”

Royal Court Bar & Kitchen. Picture: Dave Evans

Jane Beardsworth, Director North of the Arts Council agrees. She, says the Royal Court brought “Another dimension to the theatre scene in Liverpool and… a new audience to theatre,” praising the theatre’s application to join the national portfolio for its “inventiveness and ambition”.

There’s not much the Royal Court haven’t started to do to make use of their space, from daytime comedy clubs for parents and babies, film screenings for isolated pensioners, community choirs and youth theatre. They’re home to Boisterous, the city’s only BAME theatre company. They’ve taken over the pub next door, the legendary Penny Farthing, to open a decent bistro.

Having stuck a pound onto ticket prices to go towards the transformation of the building in four stages over recent years, and secured government funds (Liverpool City Council gives a relatively tokenistic amount each year towards its community endeavours), this has now enabled the downstairs part of the venue, a sometime comedy club space itself, to open as a studio.

Such small, intimate performance spaces, affordable to those just starting out and honing their craft, come and go in the city and there’s always a feeling there isn’t quite enough.

“Liverpool lacks an independent fringe where you can put a play on cheaply, like London or Manchester do. And that’s how people learn,” says Kevin.

Well, we’re working on it. There’s others in the city who feel the same way, and are doing their bit to help others get their theatre ambitions off the ground.

Actor Sam Donovan is part of the team running The Performers Theatre School and Merseyside Academy of Drama out of the former Masonic Hall on Hope Street. It was a “wonderful opportunity and a happy accident” that further exploration of the building revealed a space that would make a perfect fringe venue. The Hope Street Theatre opened in October 2018 and became a natural gathering place for the city’s emerging and community companies.

“There was a need for this kind of space and the opportunity was there. People had nowhere to put on a play,” said Sam. “The first thing we did was visit everybody to say we’re not trying to set up a ‘rival’ theatre.”

“People had nowhere to put on a play”

Sam and the team don’t just hire out the 100-seater, multi-configurational space and leave companies to it, but rather make it their business to help those making the work develop to high professional standards – from assisting with quality promotional posters to declaring Wednesday performances a ‘pay what you want’ night, with the aim of getting peers and contemporaries through the door to offer honest feedback.

Audiences for many shows of this size in this sort of venue, with a run of only one or two nights, are often comprised of friends and family rather than curious theatregoers; and so the pay what you want nights aim to give them a chance to be seen, and make mistakes, in readiness to move on to performances in larger venues – the Royal Court’s new studio space being a great example of this, and productions have already started to feed in.

“We are absolutely at the bottom of the food chain, right at the grass roots of fringe space,” Sam laughs. “We’re all about beg, borrow and steal – go out and make it before you get to the next level. I’m a firm believer in proving yourself first.”

Sam Donovan Hope Street Theatre
“We are absolutely at the bottom of the food chain!” Sam Donovan at the Hope Street Theatre. Picture: Dave Evans

The Hope Street Theatre plans to become a CIC and continue to help emerging artists and community groups build a following, pay for proper tech days, and raise the quality of their work to allow them to move on to bigger venues.

Across the street, Theatre at the Casa has been another fiercely independent fringe venue that always marched to the sound of its own drum.

Founded by Burjesta Theatre Company, aka Julian Bond and Mikyla Durkan, they began to use the function space in the Hope Street bar – set up for the community by sacked dock workers – for workshops and performances, saving their takings to invest in a proper light and sound set up, then uniform seating and theatre curtains.

They had been inspired by the writing and career of radical playwright (and former Everyman artistic director) John McGrath, their repertoire including adaptations of Crime and Punishment, All Quiet on the Western Front, and the classics like Shakespeare, Marlowe, and Euripides. They would host other local and national companies at an affordable rate, and carved their own niche seemingly standing somewhat alone from the rest of the city’s theatre scene.

“We wanted to make theatre that was accessible to all, not just middle-class elite ‘culture vultures’, but to working-class people who might not feel comfortable going to the theatre,” explains Julian. “We wanted to put working-class actors from Liverpool on the stage who were not getting sufficient parts in other groups because of their Liverpool accents, and we wanted to do this to as high and as professional standard as we could attain.”

When they’d created a professional standard space, they felt justified in calling themselves a bona fide fringe theatre venue. “We felt this was particularly important as so many arts places in Liverpool were closing down and being turned into office spaces or student accommodation.”

The Unity as we know it today has been arguably straddling the fringe and mainstream for nearly 40 years, with its roots in left wing, working class theatre going back to the 1930s. Another Arts Council NPO, the Hope Place venue underwent an £850,000 renovation in 2017 that transformed the front of house areas beyond all recognition.

“We appeal to audiences who are willing to take a risk” Gordon Millar at the Unity Theatre. Picture: Dave Evans

Gordon Millar took over as artistic director last year, and since then has made strides in ensuring the theatre is accessible for all, and the work on stage reflects the diversity of the city (and the wider UK as a whole). Like Kevin Fearon at the Royal Court, he is another leader in Liverpool theatre who cut his teeth at several of the other venues in the city, so really has a feel for what makes local audiences tick. A John Moores University graduate, he came to the Unity from the Lyceum in Crewe, via the Barbican.

With a programme of curated, “innovative” touring work on the stage and a commitment to supporting local artists behind the scenes, there’s nothing if not a renewed sense of purpose behind all the change. “We explore ideas through creativity,” Gordon says. “We regularly present quality art by the people and not just about the people.”

Of all the theatres in the city, the Unity is arguably the one that embraces the wider creative industries around the city the most, taking the time to explore work across other art forms. It has always exhibited local visual artists around its public spaces, and supported local creatives at all levels.

It is typically the main theatre venue hosting the lion’s share of performance strands of events like Homotopia, the Arabic Arts Festival and Physical Fest, and always goes against the grain to offer a non-panto family show at Christmas time. The Unity may be small, but there is a purposeful diversity in its programming that arguably puts them ahead of the pack – something theatre in particular is often criticised for nationally.

“Because our work is pioneering, we appeal to audiences who are willing to take a risk,” adds Gordon. “We vehemently believe that this venue is here for anyone. For many people there are various barriers in place to attending cultural activity, so we spend a lot of time, thought and effort in ensuring we are accessible for all.”

What is so important at the Unity is that work on stage is becoming increasingly representational of real lives in Liverpool…that our offer is truly representative of the varied lived experiences in [the city],” says Gordon Millar.

For most theatres, it’s imperative the work they create reflects the city in some way or another. While not unique to Liverpool, it certainly forms part of what is now a “great tradition”, according to former LIPA lecturer Dr Maria Barrett, now assistant professor at the Centre for Cultural and Media Policy Studies at the University of Warwick.

It was something likely pioneered by the Everyman Theatre of the 1970s, “when it was radical to see local stories – and especially working class people and their struggles – portrayed on stage,” she says.

“This has been picked up again by many of the contemporary Liverpool producing theatres – [today], it’s often a less radical portrayal, but it suggests audiences very much enjoy seeing and hearing people like them on stage.”

Most obviously, you’ll see it in the Royal Court’s cannon of ‘Scouse plays’ from Brick Up the Mersey Tunnels on.

“It’s been tricky, but the biggest thing I’ve learned in the last 12 years or so is audiences have got to connect with what’s on stage, whether it’s about them or they can recognise the characters as people they know,” says Kevin Fearon. “It can’t be something they struggle to understand, showing them a world they don’t really know.”

This goes some way to explain why experiments away from this formula, while critically acclaimed, like a revival of Noises Off in 2014, or Irish dark comedy Lonesome West, just haven’t kept the faithful happy. The Court’s more recent shows, like Miracle on Great Homer Street, have twinned their famously broad Scouse humour with more three dimensional characters struggling with moral dilemmas that don’t preach or patronise, quietly giving food for thought alongside the gags.

“We’re trying to give audiences what they like but don’t know it,” Kevin adds. “If you listen to the audience, you can give them what they want without compromising what you want to say.”

Their most recent Christmas show, the Scouse Cinderella, was their biggest festive hit to date and served a side of satire with their panto style, skewering city Mayor Joe Anderson and the controversial plan to build on Sefton Park Meadows. The Royal Court may be playing a big game now, but a rebel heart still beats – and presumably always will. “We are independent and we don’t have to toe any line – and it’s good that theatre can say things,” says Kevin.

The Everyman audience demands that they’re part of the story,” says associate director Nick Bagnall in the programme notes of his recent production of Sweeney Todd (pictured, top), discussing his preference for working ‘in the round’ with the audience seated on all sides of the stage. “There’s no point denying they’re in the room with us. A Liverpool audience will catch you out straight away if you try it.”

A “Liverpool heartbeat” is a requirement to all the in-house work at the Everyman and Playhouse; “plays with reverence, humanity, iconoclasm,” enthuses Gemma Bodinetz. “Our audiences love politics, heart and wit, and if we can put all those in a show we’re onto a winner. Something that comes into the audience with arms open, that the audience is ready to embrace.”

The Playhouse’s ‘McGoughieres’ – poet Roger McGough’s trilogy of Moliere adaptations directed by Gemma from 2008 through to 2013 – are a prime example of this; Arthur Miller adaptations, always particularly resonate with E&P theatregoers, too.

Roger McGough’s The Misanthrope. Picture: E&P

And on the fringe, the need to represent the city and its people on stage was very much what brought Theatre at the Casa into existence in the first place. Burjesta was inspired to “make theatre that was exciting and relevant to a Liverpool audience – beyond the Scouse comedy approach – treating them as intelligent and culturally aware,” says Julian Bond.

The appeal isn’t insular, either, with Dr Barrett’s own academic research revealing examples of European audience members finding such local flavour a real hoot, while those from further afield in the UK being inspired to try a similar approach.

“While reflecting the city [in theatre] is not unique to Liverpool, I suspect that for reasons of cultural history, and perhaps our fascination with our own mythology, that it is more common here than elsewhere,” she says.

While the physical buildings are future-proofing the city’s theatre offer for years to come, as we’ve recently seen, there are never any guarantees. Most of the bigger theatres are diversifying commercially, running their own cafes and hiring out space for weddings, conferences and meetings. While bigger places like the Royal Court and the Everyman have fought off real financial threats over the years and continue to struggle with funding, fringe venues walk an even finer line.

The Lantern Theatre began to thrive in the Baltic Triangle at the very start of the area’s renaissance back in 2011, when artistic director Margaret Connell took it over, rightly convinced that the then semi-derelict quarter would soon be a hive of activity. But it closed in 2016 when the landlord sold the Blundell Street building where it was based from under them, and never found a suitable home after that. Still, its writers group – and considerable influence on Liverpool’s fringe scene – lives on, and you often find the city’s theatre makers who got a foot through the door there can’t help but smile when they remember the place.

Today, the Hope Street Theatre breaks even after paying its front of house and tech staff, thanks to the other revenue streams coming from the building. The directors are effectively volunteers, and making a profit is not the point. “You don’t open a place like this to make money,” laughs Sam Donovan. “This is a long term project for us. There was already a lovely community of people interested in theatre in this building, and we thought it would make an amazing theatre. If the Lantern was still open, we definitely wouldn’t have done this.”

But it wasn’t just the Lantern that left a hole. Around the same time The Actors Studio, a small but dedicated space on Seel Street, met a similar fate – snapped up in the same land grab that claimed the Kazimier, Liverpool Academy of Arts, and superclub Nation for flats. The tiny fringe venue, opened by actress Pauline Daniels in 2007, staged new plays, writing festivals, acting courses and more, until the building at number 36 – including the theatre under its new owners – met its fate.

Theatre at the Casa wound up early in 2019, although Burjesta hope the space will come into use again now the set up is there. “The bane of many arts groups’ lives was the inability to make a proper living from our work, despite the fact that we were spending an enormous amount of time in running it. We also wished to pursue other areas of interest in our lives after seven years of pretty much dedication to theatre,” says Julian Bond. “Even though we have left, we feel proud of what we’ve done and the legacy we’ve left at The Casa.”

Then there’s the curiosity of the Epstein, which we now know has been up to its neck in money trouble and barely lived to tell the tale.The former Neptune Theatre, a purpose-built music hall dating back to 1913, reopened under the new name in 2014 after a £1.2m refurbishment, hosting locally-produced original work and Christmas and Easter pantos among touring comedy and children’s shows. Unlike the Royal Court, it has benefited from much support from the city council, which owns the freehold of the building.

“We need to let audiences know they are welcome before they
arrive, and once they are through our doors we need to look after them and make people feel good…”

In a somewhat crowded market the self-styled ‘hidden gem’ has never quite made the mark it could have done – but the drama at the Epstein, it transpired, was happening off stage. In 2017, it went into administration – and although this didn’t interrupt the programming on stage as the viewing public would notice, the financial irregularities behind the scenes were severe. Former assistant manager Kelvin Lloyd was jailed for stealing more than a quarter of a million pounds from the theatre, sowing the seeds of the financial problems that nearly closed it for good.

However the untapped potential of the venue is still attracting those drawn to its compact size and evocative old-school theatre style, and a new operating partnership – one that certainly can vouch for experience, passion and a good track record – is on the verge of being announced. The Epstein lives to fight another day, and has every chance to carve itself a new niche as the ideal space for local productions whose popularity may have outgrown the Unity but couldn’t fill the Royal Court.

As Arts Council England looks to the future, it too will have to do things differently to justify its own existence to government. It now says that arts venues must be using their buildings in a way that is relevant and central to the local community, rather than focusing on simply making good work, to make their grade. Resilience is the buzzword of the day.

Experience would tell you there’s a sense that much of Liverpool’s theatre scene has always understood this and done it anyway, naturally; for expression and creativity, for inclusivity and education, for bringing people together rather than jumping through hoops for cash. Let’s hope this is never compromised.

But with so many other activities vying for the public’s attention and cash these days, and with so many hurdles in the way, one of the biggest things to get right is treating audiences well in the first place.

“We need to get the welcome right. Too often, audiences are made to feel unwelcome; this has a big impact on diversity,” says Dr Maria Barrett. “We need to let audiences know they are welcome before they arrive, and once they are through our doors we need to look after them and make people feel good. Imagine going to a theatre for the first time and being made to feel stupid because signposting isn’t great and you’re not sure where you need to go, or how to behave. We need to do a much better job of looking after audiences on their journey.”

Because ultimately, this is a city that will always be creating, and theatre and performance will always be at the heart of that, and the people who make it will always find somewhere to put on a show.

“Liverpool is a great place for theatre, there’s a great audience for live entertainment,” says Kevin Fearon. “Compared to other cities, people would go out every night of the week if they could.

“Nobody wants to be stuck at home. It’s all about creating that hub, and making something worth coming out for.”

Written by Vicky Anderson; production images © Liverpool Everyman & Playhouse; all other pictures © Dave The Pap

3 thoughts on “Best And Worst Of Times
For Liverpool’s Theatres?

  1. Fascinating article marred only by its ignorance of the rep issue at the Everyman. You (along with many other journalists it has to be said) ignore the fact that the rep system was tried again at the Ev in the late 1980s. It, too, harked back to the 1970s rose tinted model; it also financially failed and was a major contributory factor in closing the organisation. The big disappointment of the current model is that it didn’t learn anything from that 1980s experience.

    The other irony of the current situation is that for many, many years the current managers of the Royal Court steadfastly refused public funding, claiming it skewed the market place and that the only way forward were commercial models which relied on acts like The Chippendales to make an organisation function.

  2. The Everyman has been considered rather middle class and not Liverpool based. The management team come from outside the city. As the Everyman is supposed to live up to its name it would help the theatre to be more outward looking. It has Hope Street Theatre across the road with up and coming Theatre groups wanting to use more small spaces but the Everyman studios are not open to these groups.
    If they had a meeting once a month and invite local creatives in, they will make a loyal band of people that will support the place.
    All the spaces in the theatre should be in use. Local

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