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Boys from the Blackstuff | Royal Court Liverpool

Boys from the Blackstuff, which was originally written by Alan Bleasdale and has been adapted by James Graham, is a hefty, powerful and incredibly thought-provoking play. The story follows a group of five men as they navigate the hardships of struggling to find a secure job whilst dodging the department of employment and doing questionable jobs on the side, being unable to provide for their families due to lack of money, and living in a time of complete uncertainty.

The book ensures that the story doesn't shy away from exposing the harsh realities that these men succumbed to, and in this modern day in which there are still many uncertainties and unpredictabilities, this piece of theatre becomes incredibly relatable and accessible as we sympathise with the characters and their situations. Whilst the play is sombre, there are interspersed moments of much-needed light comedic relief, however, this doesn't take away or cheapen the true and underlying messages being portrayed.

Director Kate Wasserberg has ensured that the pacing of this play is steady, yet is gripping throughout. Scenes are snappy and concise, with all moments of dialogue feeling purposeful and relevant, and scene transitions between these moments flow seamlessly, with the helpful hand of choreography by movement director Rachel Nanyonjo.

The cast do a stellar job of bringing humanity to the forefront of this piece, and the script allows opportunity for exploration of each of the five men and their situations. Barry Sloane gives a standout performance of Yosser, perfectly capturing the essence of an unstable man as a result of the harsh conditions that he has had to endure. The slow decline of his mental health is a heartbreaking watch, and Sloane bares his heart on the stage. Aron Julius, Mark Womack, Nathan McMullen and Phillip Whitchurch complete the infamous five, and all give stellar performances, making this piece of theatre completely sobering. A shout-out must be given to George Caple, who bounces between characters effortlessly.

Amy Jane Cook's set design perfectly sets the scene of Liverpool in the era of which the play was set. Moving cranes and crates adorn the stage, with scaffolding being used by the cast to create different layers and dynamics on stage. Projections (Jamie Jenkin) adorn the back of the stage which are visually stunning and are effective in portraying the chilling consequences of the harsh living conditions experienced. Dyfan Jones' sound design is subtle, but certain moments of sound effects are simply haunting.

Boys from the Blackstuff runs at Royal Court Theatre in Liverpool until 11th May before transferring to the National Theatre in London, and then to the Garrick Theatre. For more information and tickets, you can follow the link here.


Gifted tickets in return for an honest review | photography by Andrew AB Photography


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