Slight but sweet reminder of how live performance can transport us from our everyday reality
All of life has been delivered to our doorsteps during lockdown – and here theatre follows suit.
While turning the huge ships that culture secretary Oliver Dowden deemed our cultural "jewels in the crown" seems a gargantuan task, small theatre companies such as Liverpool’s 20 Stories High are clearly nimble enough to have sized up the restraints of the new normal, and here the latter organisation has created something immediate and engagingly heartwarming.
In Knocking On, Brodie Arthur resurrects her character Kelsey – first introduced in the Toxteth company’s site-specific show She’s Leaving Home in 2017 – and sets her loose on the streets of south Liverpool in search of a lost pet.
A knock on the door, a ring on the bell, and Arthur’s Kelsey is there with missing posters in hand and cheerful enquiries on her tongue.
Over a brief but concentrated 10 minutes, we are offered a glimpse into the character’s lockdown experience, which, it appears, has been a positive one: a time to reflect and plan and an opportunity to reconnect and strengthen bonds with loved ones.
Arthur is performing to single households containing only a handful of people, many of whom have been self-isolating up until now. And 20 Stories High has been careful to work within current Covid-19 guidelines – a clear two metres is maintained between actor and audience.
Part performance, part genuine human interaction, Knocking On relies heavily on audience participation to drive the action. Of course, it helps that this is Liverpool, where strangers are used to swapping life stories at the bus stop.
Arthur proves adept at weaving ad-libbed chat into a wider scripted narrative arc in very natural fashion. The reward of overcoming any initial audience embarrassment and plunging into the performance is knowing that together you have created something unique within that moment and on that doorstep.