Urban Legend

Written by Laurence Wilson
Everyman Theatre, 29th Oct to 20th November

Reviewed by Kenn Taylor

Urban Legend is the latest in the Everyman's 'Life begins' season of new writing, begun by the theatre’s new artistic and executive directors Gemma Bodinetz and Deborah Aydon, to return the Everyman to being a fully producing theatre once more.

This is the first full work by Wilson whose previous trilogy of short plays, Surf's Up, set around Crosby, won a Manchester Evening News award for theatre. This play has a setting not to far away from the last being set almost entirely in a flat of a Bootle high-rise.

Here three generations of men live, well exist; Horse, the grandfather a broken former boxer, separated mysteriously from his wife. Robbie his eldest son, struggling to provide for his family having 'retired' at forty, and Robbie's own son Wayne who despite his musical talent is still crippled with grief over the death of his mother, the legend of whom looms large over the play.

Each character spends the first act of the play trying to hide from the demons from their past. Blaming others for their predicament or simply not caring, Granddad hides behind his conspiracy theories while Robbie and Wayne mask their sorrows with beer and pot respectively (Wayne doing resin buckets on stage is quite possibly a theatre first). And doing the traditional Liverpool thing of hiding behind humour, there are some great one-liners throughout the play, bringing the audience out in fits of laughter, though some of the catch phrases are layered on a bit thick.

While in the second act the play takes a more tragic twist, after a series of shocking revelations the characters façade’s break down and they are each forced to face what they has brought them to this situation and their own fears. And there are many poignant moments as they learn to move on, particularly when Wayne brings out the courage to play his song.

There is only a small amount of action in the play, being set almost entirely in one flat, however the dialogue between the characters is so good it still manages to hold your attention. Wilson has a real ear for language and his characterisation brings out the little idiosyncrasies hidden in all of us.

All actors performed well, but with a stand out performance from Mark Arends as Wayne and John Campbell must be praised for taking on and learning the key role of Horse in less than a week after Alt Kossy was forced to drop out, surely one of the hardest challenges for an actor.

The tragedy in the play is well balanced out with dark humour, which prevents it becoming a misery-fest. A good story of people learning to live with the past and move on and another good play from the revitalised Everyman.