Saturday, 26 January 2019

REVIEW: Love Letters From Blackpool - The Met Theatre, Bury.


“Love Letters From Blackpool” was a show originally created for the Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester but has since been on a tour of the fringe theatres around the UK including this evening’s performance at The Met in Bury. The creator is Ruth E Cockburn – actor, comedian and musician – a lifelong native of Blackpool, she is also the solo performer in the show.

As audience members arrived at the theatre, we were greeted by Cockburn herself who was busily wandering around the audience in her ‘Kiss Me Quick’ t-shirt and making herself known. What stood out more than anything was her infectious personality and the huge smile on her face as she talked to each person as they arrived – it was hard to walk away from Cockburn and not be in a better mood than you were before you met her.

Cockburn started the show seamlessly, kicking off with something of a stand-up routine where she chatted to the front few rows of the audience finding out people’s preferences on subjects such as “cats or dogs”, “tea or coffee” and “train or bus” with the latter being the most obvious – according to Cockburn “what kind of weirdo would choose bus?”. Her stand-up style was very inoffensive but she had a confidence about her that came through very clearly. The material was quite basic but she got plenty of laughs, tonight’s audience was perhaps not her normal age bracket as she talked about Tinder and Ted Talks but overall she was impressive as a comedian.

We were then treated to the first of what were a number of short acoustic songs during the evening with Cockburn on her guitar – some serious messages about love and relationships interspersed with some very funny punchlines and many references to Blackpool.

Cockburn next spoke of her late aunt who died quite suddenly but had left a will that declared that any love letters found by the family should be burned without being read – her husband by this time had already passed away. The story doidn’t really conclude but Cockburn did read out a series of letters during the show which could easily have been those from her late aunt.

Next we heard some audio clips from people Cockburn had interviewed in Blackpool, again mostly talking about love and their relationships – in particular how they make love last the test of time. Many of the clips had some unintentionally funny comments which resonated with the audience and created some laughs.

Finally we heard a story acted out in several scenes by Cockburn that charted the lives of a young couple heading from courtship through to marriage and beyond – another love story from Blackpool. She cleverly rotated through the various elements of the show and utilised the many Blackpool-based props laid out on the stage throughout the performance.

The show was billed as a play but in truth it was more of a showcase of Ruth E Cockburn’s many talents. She clearly feels very well at home on the stage and turns her hand to song, acting, poetry and stand-up comedy – all of which she carries off with seeming ease. The underlying story is one of her love for the place she was born and is still resident – she acknowledges all of the flaws of the famous seaside town but is still besotted with the place. If I were to be critical of any part of the show it would be that we couldn’t see the faces that accompanied the audio clips, I think this would have helped the audience understand the types of people they were hearing from. However, this minor point does not detract from what is a very well written, witty and brilliantly performed one hour show.

Reviewer - John Fish
on - 24/1/19

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