Wild Flowers

Written by Franny Conlin
Directed by Chris Doherty
The Unity
Thursday 17th May 2012

Reviewed by Jennifer Keegan

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.

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