by Franny Conlin
Directed by Chris Doherty
Thursday 17th May 2012
Wild flowers is set in Liverpool in the midst of the Dockers
Strike in 1995, pubs and factories were closing and more and more people
found themselves out of work. The story focuses on the Lavell family,
made up of striking Dockers, Dad Pat, his Son Jimmy, Uncle Jim and Cousin
Hank, all struggling just to get by. Conlin shows what happens when one
family member makes a drastic decision and the fallout that follows. We
see Jimmy, played by the wonderful John Bradburn, crossing the picket
line in desperation and, as he is ousted by the community, we see his
life descend into chaos as he gets involved with dealing and taking drugs.
As the play continues, we are shown how a close knit, typically scouse
family, deals with one of their own going down the wrong path. Liverpool
is known for its strong family bonds and the northern attitude of looking
after their own. Wild Flowers is no different, as Jimmy’s life spirals
out of control, we see the Lavell family put aside family squabbles and
unite to bring their lost sheep home. They have the typical attitude of
keeping their problems within the family and dealing with it 'in house'
so to speak.
Dad Pat, played by John Mitchell, provides an emotional performance as
he sings about his lost son, when he tracks Jimmy down he sings about
how fools gold attracts only fools. His saddened attitude and exasperation
is evident and, thanks to Mitchell, our hearts go to the character he
so wonderfully plays. However it is Uncle Jimmy, played by Russell Parry
whose vocal ability really showcases his character. We see the playful,
sunny side of his scouse character when he sings about the railway being
shut down and how he is better off pushing the bus than sitting on it.
Then when their mother dies, he sings again in a very powerful expression
of his feelings. It is Jimmy's attitude that best shows the Liverpool
attitude of working hard, looking after your own, and finding a laugh
wherever you can.
The entire cast did this story justice and at the climax we see how a
lost sheep can bring tragedy to a family, just as it can a community.
It could be seen as an anti drugs story, a warning almost, but I prefer
to see it as a story about family. About how through the laughter and
the despair, the good and the bad, family is a bond that is never broken.
Especially in Liverpool. The beautiful song at the end about how wild
flowers grow and stand on the Liverpool docks now instead of men was poignant.
It reminds everyone that the city is steeped in history, and it is through
this history it has such an identity. Wild Flowers is proof that
Liverpool will never forget either its own history or its own identity.