The Kindness of Strangers

Written by Tony Green
The Everyman Theatre, 24 Sept - 16 Oct 2004

Reviewed by Kenn Taylor

The same week that Liverpool's acclaimed Everyman theatre celebrates its 40th birthday sees the opening of the world premier of The Kindness of Strangers, the first major staged work by local writer Tony Green. The first play in the "Life Begins" season celebrating the theatre's anniversary.

The Kindness of Strangers is a slice of life play set in the Liverpool of today, where a mixed bag of characters, some local and some who have ended up here from one place or another, strangers whose lives begin to interconnect.

From businessman Sam, for whom no money is too dirty, Macey the prostitute who just wants to look after her kids, to the troubled Irish girl Cheryl. The play's core though is the music act formed as a means to survive by a group of new asylum seekers in Liverpool; Mohamed, a new and hopeful Kurdish refugee, Behrouz, enthusiastic to integrate into "scouse culture" even if it means buying Liverpool and Everton shirts, to the older Samir who despairs at his reduced position in life and the actions of his fellow migrants.

The central story of the play is Mohamed's attempt to gain UK residency by marrying an English girl, but will a "business transaction" turn into something more.

At first some of the characters seem two dimensional stereotypes but all develop and this could be the play's strength as it makes you think about stereotypes and identity, not just those leveled at outsiders to Liverpool and Britain, but their beliefs about us, some wild and some a little more accurate.

The Kindness of Strangers manages to be both very funny, some of the set pieces are hilarious in particular the womble serenade, and also at times quite poignant and moving. Good social commentary on today's society without laying it on with a trowel.

Stand out performances come from veteran Tom Georgeson as Sam and newcomer Lorraine Burroughs as Macey, while Brookside's Diane Burke puts in a good turn playing three different characters.

There are few bad points about this play but it might not be for you if you are easily offended. If this work is anything to go by the Everyman should go from strength to strength.