Mersey Memories

Shorefields Drama Group
Casa, Hope Street, on 18th July 2005

Reviewed by Julian Bond

‘Mersey Memories’ consisted of three ‘playlets’, written by local Liverpool writers around this year’s ‘City of Culture’ theme of 'the sea', performed to a local and knowledgeable audience in ‘the dockers club’.

The first - ‘African Man, Liverpool Heart’ by Robert Awork - told the tale of an African seaman’s affection for his adopted ‘warts and all’ Liverpool. ‘Nobodies’, written by Alan Bower, revealed the realities and dangers of 2nd World War-torn dock work, reflecting on workers’ rights and avoiding dropping bombs, whilst ‘The Cokes’ by Gerard F. Howkins, dealt with 1960s dockers’ canteens and particularly the historically unrecognised role of women working on the docks.

Once again Shorefields Drama Group has worked hard to provide drama that is relevant and entertaining to a working class audience whilst retaining a high standard. As such the pieces were greeted with enthusiasm throughout.

Of particular note was Alan Bower’s ‘Nobodies’, which was gripping as it dynamically and naturalistically exposed the tensions within the docker culture - the solidarity that kept the tensions at bay and the very real threat of German bombs. This thirty minute piece took place in the hold of a ship and was complimented by the droning of bombers and the whining of delivered bombs. The ensemble acting was strong throughout, and had been given the chance to shine and give expression by a well crafted script. ‘Nobodies’ also dealt with class conflict and previous workers’ strikes, which was illuminating but not always entirely woven into the script. Nevertheless it has all the potential to be extended to a full length play.

Whilst ‘African Man’ did not have quite the same dramatic punch – it was more of a poetic soliloquy, more reflective in tone – it had some clever touches, and importantly revealed the African influence on this city. It also managed to invert a few expectations with Bob - a black seaman married to a white Liverpudlian - laughing to his white shipmate that he found it funny that his kids ‘look like me and talk like you’!

Of similar importance was the recognition of the role of women in the industrial life of this city found within ‘The Cokes’. The tension created came from disputes between the male dockers and the female canteen staff over who worked the hardest. As in the other pieces the acting was solid throughout.

All three plays have potential to be extended from these short pieces into plays in their own right and are certainly important enough in representing the working class, men and women, black and white of this city. Shorefields Drama deserve much applause for this alone but so much more.

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