Her Benny, Theatre Review. Royal Court Theatre, Liverpool.

Liverpool Sound and Vision Rating 9/10

Cast: Peter Brindle, Janet Cowley, Lindzi Germain, John McGrellis, Elizabeth Baxendale, Daniel Cox, Georgia Chadwick, David Thomas, Owen Doolan, Molly Large, Danielle Gorle, Owen Newsome, Abigail Bradbury, Jack Brown, Catherine Devine, Elliot Hanna, Laura Hesketh, Molly Hurst, Joey Jennings, Lisle des Landes, Victoria Platt, Tony Prince.

The history of a city is not always evident in the literature of the time, it suffers from the writer wanting to make sure that the reputation of the place in question is not unbridled with a sense of deep regret or even shame to allow its face to be shown. Yet for authors such as Charles Dickens and possibly to a slightly lesser extent in the Cornish writer Silas K. Hocking, the truth, no matter what age it is written for, is always to be found in making sure the detail of the city is not found wanting to exorcise and challenging its past.

For Liverpool, the much loved book by Silas Hocking, Her Benny, is one such reason to make sure a character is seen through the eyes of the city that moulded them and its musical adaptation is no less a wonder; one that is now celebrated with great and deserving fanfare as it reaches its 25th anniversary on the stage.

To have two of Liverpool’s most recognisable and much admired actors who have called the Royal Court a theatrical home, performing in such a prestigious production such as Her Benny, especially in its 25th Anniversary year, that is a celebration of both the musical’s appeal to the people of the city that encapsulate the hope found in the streets that edge the Mersey.

It is a sense of hope that does not come from privilege or demand, it is, as the play shows, one that has been fought for, breath by breath, ideal by ideal, and there have been many casualties. For all the Nells that have fallen, for all the Bennys accused of a crime they did not commit, there have been the moments of redemption, of social acceptance and the need of change and where better than in Liverpool, a city that holds that firmly in its grip and offers to all who stand by the city.

To witness Lindzi Germain and John McGrellis working together on the Royal Court stage is a delight of the year, and with a large ensemble cast around them it is seen to be passionate, full of flair and the choreography absolutely a master-class of expression and drive. From the main adult cast through to the young actors, this was an exceptional performance which had style woven in a bounty of elegance which only served the finesse of the truth of the story of how rotten the Victorian era was with unabashed conviction.

Milestones are not always reached with a positive slant, in terms of endearment, of drama, of good story-telling and the impressive cast on offer for this the 25th Anniversary of Her Benny; this is a milestone of the highest order, a welcome return to the Liverpool theatre world of a classic hit.

Ian D. Hall