Unity Theatre, Liverpool
Shake it up Baby is a new Liverpool-based romantic comedy, performed as part of the Beatles-themed Ticket to Write festival last weekend. And there was definitely a sense it is just the beginning for this warm, crowd-pleasing tale about a woman looking for love later in life.
Jackie Jones is never far from a stage in this city, but has found a particularly perfect role in lead character Bev, who decides to try Lonely Hearts Club online dating in a bid to find someone who loves the Fab Four as much as she does. Like Shirley Valentine and Bridget Jones before her, Bev breaks the fourth wall to share her thoughts with the audience, while her parade of bad dates gives writer Suzan Holder and the cast plenty of opportunity to play with the form – it’s clear all involved were enjoying themselves.
Hayley Hampson, a recent LIPA graduate who has become a regular on the Royal Court stage, took on multiple roles and bounced off Jones as everything from a bored shopkeeper to rival date, and even an Echo reporter. The pair had great chemistry and really made a bright and funny script sing. The cast was completed by Julian Feria – with the task of playing a variety of dodgy blind dates – and Neil McDonald as the smooth talker who could be the perfect match.
It’s currently a one-act play, but it’s easy to see how Shake it up Baby could become more. Director Francesca Goodridge keeps things fast paced and mines the laughs; the musical interludes are short but could easily become full blown numbers. It’s not a wildly original conceit but it is undeniably enjoyable, laugh-out-loud, good-natured fun, driven by good writing and some great performances. It would be no surprise to see it graduate to the Royal Court in future.
Read more about the play in MADEUP’s interview with Suzan Holder, here.
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