Red Skies

Written by Jo Mac, directed by Paul Goetzee
A CJ Productions production
Unity Theatre
11th - 14th May 2011

Reviewed by Rob Saven

Red Skies was an amazing and moving play.

It started with Joey Connor shuffling through the audience shaking people's hands (where I sat was the best as he shook my hand first) so I actually got the play underway - thanks Joe.

Now there must have been thousands of flymen like Joey in Liverpool selling meat, butter, alcohol, and the most prized of all, silk stockings. He got a few good laughs out of the sale of a chicken with no wings or legs. He told us that it was top secret by the RAF to breed them like that so they could not fly into planes - decoy chickens they were called. Joey is what we would call today a lovable rogue!!

The normal family that the play's writer Jo Mac featured must have been mirrored in homes up and down the country, sons and fathers away fighting, wives and girlfriends at home "waiting and worrying".

Molly Murphy gave us a few giggles telling Joey what he could do with his bananas!!

The music was enchanting and sometimes haunting - it led to tears and smiles in equal measure.

The women waiting in the queue outside Barmey Rodgers shop with their ration books in hand gave you a good insight to how it must have been to queue for hours to get a slice of bacon or a couple of eggs (if you were one of the lucky ones).

Molly made her man his tea when he got home from work. "I will end up looking like a bleeding SPAM FRITTER," he said. She replied, "I've done you some nice turnip mash love to go with it."

The whole play led up to the New Year dance at the Grafton, the girls putting a line down the backs of their legs so it looked like they were wearing stockings.

It was all the small details that gave you a proper insight to what it must have been like at that time. But I don't suppose we can imagine what it was like, for example, the smell of burning flesh, loved ones lying dead in the street, children screaming and crying in fear and confusion. Oh no, you really had to be there.

When a bomb with a direct hit struck Tom's house the mood went darker.

His wife was adamant that their kids were NOT going to be evacuated and little Emma and Charlie really wanted to go to Wales!! She had heard all sorts of stories about evacuated kids being made to work and clean and do all other terribe things.

Well poor Tom was digging in the rubble with his bare hands to get to his wife and kids, and the spirit of his dead family stood behind him - it was soul wrenching to watch, and there was not a dry eye in the house.

'The war to end all wars'. The River Mersey running red with the blood of the dead people.

Mary and Bert were so proud of their boys being in the navy, but she worried, like any mother would.

The major build up in the play was the do taking place in the Grafton. It was a brilliant party - you felt you yourself were part of the party with the actors. Then bang, the bomb hit the club - the actors froze on stage - it was so moving because you knew that they had ALL died.

The play is a touching tribute to the men, women and children who died during these dark times in our history. We were battered but the spirit was not broken. The folk of Liverpool are renowned for their sense of humour (a curly headed man attended the play but he never made his 'joke' about the Germans bombing his chippy).

The Liverpool Echo have produced a 70th anniversary special edition about the Liverpool Blitz, and it does make amazing reading. Some of the photographs are mind-blowing. The one that had me in tears was the picture of the Durning Road tragedy in November 1940. An underground shelter was bombed, killing 166 people and injuring a lot more. It was the worst loss of life in a single incident during the Liverpool Blitz.

The play also referred to the bombing of Mill Road hospital - makes me wonder if the Germans knew what they were dropping bombs, the evil bastards.

We don't hear enough about the brave men, women and children who gave their lives so we could live ours. The youth of today never stop and give these people a moment's thought.

'The night was hot and the children cold'; 'A nightingale sang in Berkeley Square'; 'The white cliffs of Dover'; 'Cleaning windows'.

The best credit for the play must go to the writer Jo Mac for putting together such a heartfelt piece of theatre and for the respect shown for all the souls we lost (they will not grow old).

The blitz was only seventy years ago burt for all its worth in the hearts of the free and living it may as well be another time and place.

We need to stop all this bullshit of shootings and communities destroyed by drugs and drink.

It was 'Tin Hat Meg' who said "All it takes for evil men to succeed is for good men to do nothing."

Remenber next time you see an old man or woman struggling with bags or trying to cross the road, they gave their youth for us to have ours. How do we repay them? Dismiss and abuse them.

Jo Mac dedicated the play to his nan (the angel who walks by his side). I thought that was a nice touch, so I will dedicate this review to my granddad who was a real-life hero at Dunkirk, in mind, a constant thought, in heart, a silent tear, to know him was to love hime - A. Fitzgerald (private).

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