A SILK PURSE: THE EVERYMAN THEATRE, LIVERPOOL


Before it was the Everyman Theatre

it was Hope Hall Cinema – and bar –

frequented by Dooley, Henri, McGough,

the Liverpool Scene. I saw Jean Renoir’s

1939 black and white ‘La Règle

du Jeu’ – Chekhovian, dystopian

entre deux guerres – in what was an untouched

dissenters’ chapel four-square between

the two cathedrals on Hope Street.

 

It became a theatre known for new writing,

new music – all with a political edge

and with humour, thumbing the collective nose

to one rule, one game – and genuinely

original staging of classics: the Bard’s,

Brecht’s, Brighouse’s examination texts.

Coach loads of young people from Liverpool,

Lancashire, Wirral and Cheshire would watch

the likes of Julie Walters, Jonathan Pryce,

Antony Sher, Alison Steadman

perform at rapt matinees, their teachers

relaxed that all was as it should be,

that they would never forget that afternoon.

 

That group of boys had seen ‘Hobson’s Choice’

the year before and we prepared for

‘Julius Caesar’ even more thoroughly,

listening to the Argo recording –

with Richard Johnson as Mark Antony –

while following the text. At what point

the parallel plan began to take shape –

with such diligence and application,

such textual scholarship and retail research –

or what inspired it or whom, I never

had the humility or joy then to learn,

and now too many threads have been unravelled.

 

As Act Three began – ‘The ides of March are come’,

‘Ay Caesar but not gone’ – some of the boys

began to be restless. ‘You gentle Romans -‘

Alan Dossor, the Artistic Director,

as Mark Antony, began. ‘Friends, Romans,

countrymen, lend me your ears.’ I can still see

the pig’s ear arcing towards the stage,

hear the audience’s gasp. Dossor paused,

picked up the ear by its tip and tossed it

stage left to much applause.

 

 

Note: the poem was inspired by current developments at the theatre: https://www.everymanplayhouse.com/the-company-2017

 

 

 

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  1. #1 by John Huddart - February 7th, 2017 at 22:25

    Alan Dossor died last August aged 74, of cancer. As a stage hand for a couple of shows in 1971 I barely warranted a grunt but his little theatre was awesome. Slowly it grew to the theatrical Pompidou Centre it has become. Apparently, the columns holding everything up and the old seats were auctioned off before the architects moved in with the new world. I should be excited by a new theatre but a remember the old Hope Hall and as your poem says – that was extraordinary.

  2. #2 by Alan Horne - March 20th, 2017 at 22:04

    I didn’t witness the incident with the pig’s ear – we didn’t do Julius Caesar – but I remember it being talked about. Great to be reminded of it.

  3. #3 by Alex Cox - March 24th, 2017 at 14:23

    I remember the pig’s ear incident too! And, reading your poem, almost convinced myself that I had been there and revelled in it. But, as Alan said, we didn’t “do” Caesar.

    We saw those plays in the afternoons, on trips from Wirral Grammar School, and, if you looked up, you could see the holes in the ceiling, like stars in the Planetarium…

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