While the real world is in meltdown over Brexit, this revival of Scouse comedy Brick Up 2 is more concerned with the imaginary – but just as bitter – Birkenhexit.
In the original Brick Up the Mersey Tunnels – the show that gained Liverpool Royal Court the title of ‘people’s theatre’ – salt-of-the-earth Liverpudlians trounced the citizens of the well-heeled Wirral.
The 2017 sequel sees the Wirral strike back, led by Eithne Browne’s Ann Twacky, the Hyacinth Bucket of Heswall.
Twacky spurs her blue-rinse brigade, including a nymphomaniac played with alacrity by Francis Tucker in drag, into a fresh crusade to block the Mersey crossings, ridding the peninsula of Liverpool for good.
Bob Eaton’s production opens with a bright musical number performed by an instrument-wielding cast who bring plenty of energy to proceedings.
The cast also generate an anarchic air of unpredictability – not least through some liberal ad-libbing that at times turns out to be funnier than the play itself.
Despite some genuine laugh-out-loud moments, Brick Up 2 feels like a missed opportunity to push comedy boundaries. The characters are broad-brushstroke caricatures, and many of the references, from Osama Bin Laden to cheap Polish labour, feel dated. Too often it relies on bad language and crude sexual jokes for laughs.
Antwacky (Ann Twacky) is Liverpool vernacular for something old-fashioned and, in a way, it also describes this show. Despite only being two years’ old, it feels like it comes from a different era of the theatre’s development.