Liver Birds Flying Home – concert performance – at the Epstein Theatre, Liverpool.
Star rating: four stars ★ ★ ★ ★ ✩
It’s almost half a century since The Liver Birds flew onto the nation’s TV screens in Carla Lane’s long-running sitcom. Now Barb Jungr and Linda McDermott have written a new musical based on the characters, with music by Mike Lindup, of Level 42 fame.
The show plans to open in Liverpool in October prior to a projected tour, but a single concert performance at the Epstein Theatre gave an expectant audience a taste of what’s to come.
Revisiting the past can be a dodgy business, and musical adaptations of old favourites often divide opinion, but if the response to this preview is any indicator the producers may well have a massive hit on their hands.
Liver Birds Beryl and Sandra also discover the perils of going back, in a narrative that brings them together after decades of separation.
Using two actors to play each of them allows a series of easy segues into reminiscence. Lesley Molony is the present day Beryl, who has bought the old Huskisson Street flat for her granddaughters. Here she meets Joanna Monro as Sandra, who has returned from a life abroad to see the place again.
Interjections from Julie Atherton and Nicola Munns as their younger selves (and doubling as Beryl’s granddaughters) play out a sequence of memories, as they unravel the events that have filled the years between. Mark Rice-Oxley completes the cast, playing all the male roles, from a boyfriend to a son.
Jungr and McDermott have woven a complex history for the pair, that leads to some devastating revelations for them, and there are times where they wish they’d never met each other again.
However, the unfolding story has reconciliation too and, with the inevitable twist in the tale, balances humour and a heavy dose of feelgood factor with the tragedy.
Lindup’s music is consistently strong, even in the version heard here from a single keyboard, in the hands of Caroline Humphris, and director Sarah Tipple keeps the pace of this script-in-hand concert staging tightly controlled, and there are excellent vocal performances throughout.
The piece will no doubt benefit from an enlarged cast to cut down the doubling of roles when it’s fully staged, but both the book and music have the potential to make a hugely successful show.
Given the right backers and production team, Liver Birds Flying Home should be able to look forward to a big future.