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The Netherley Hillbillies | Royal Court Liverpool

It’s an unwritten rule of comedy, subjective as it may be, that it has to make you laugh, otherwise its overall purpose is pulled into question. This Merseyside-centric tale of rags to riches it has to be said, for the most part, falls short of providing any kind of amusement; in part this could be due to the fact that the humour is aimed at a largely local audience, however, the main issue from which The Netherley Hillbillies suffers, is the uneven and half-hearted writing. The story, based on a sitcom of the same name, follows main protagonist Jed and his formerly working class family, who go from a council house in deprived Netherley to a £78m lottery win, and subsequent move to up-market Formby, but soon come to realise that the grass isn’t always greener on the richer side.

The main big positive one can draw, is that set design by Alfie Heywood spared no expense, providing an impressive backdrop, which comprised a huge rotating set, made up of two neighbouring Formby mansion exteriors, as well as the garage in which the family van is housed. Additionally, the quality of singing, in spite of occasional pitchiness, was pretty solid, though there is never any real clarity provided as to the purpose of the musical numbers, safe for a few moments of respite from the narrative lunacy.

All this aside though, it was difficult to ignore that the comedy itself mostly fell flat, and the majority of jokes failed to land, in no small part due to the distinct lack of universal appeal; this was very much a comedy of tired, overused tropes that didn’t provide anything we hadn’t seen before, and the writing, comic or not, was juvenile, unoriginal, and lacked any degree of subtlety or sophistication; even some form of slapstick being incorporated could have saved this show from falling into the category of forgettable and unfunny.

Props have to be given to the cast it must be said, they did their absolute best with the material with which they had to work, Vicky Entwistle a particular delight for her over-the-top upper-middle class matriarch, and Paul Duckworth as Jed was charming, yet steadfast. That said though, many of the characters themselves weren’t especially endearing, and their respective relationships lacked conviction, though this is mainly down to the writing rather than the performances themselves, with Entwistle’s character in particular having suffered greatly from countless missed opportunities of potential witty remarks.

The sense of protagonist and antagonist just about presents itself, however, given how grating some of the classism based humour became, they pretty much all ended up rolling into one, to the point where you really didn’t know who you should root for. The main takeaway is that this was a comedy that, with better writing and direction, could have been a hit, yet we ended up with a drab, lacklustre piece, which made you feel like you were more likely to win the lottery than find it funny.

The Netherley Hillbillies runs at Royal Court Liverpool until 22nd June - for more information and tickets, you can follow the link here.

⭐️⭐️ (2*)

Gifted tickets in return for an honest review | photography by Stephanie Clare


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