Review: The Ale House at Liverpool’s The Dome, Grand Central
March 14, 2016
It’s New Year’s Day. For many it’s a day to nurse a hangover, clean up after last night’s devastation, or stumble home. For landlady Lucy of The Ale House, it’s just another day at work.
The Ale House follows Lucy from opening time to closing time on New Year’s Day as she’s forced to deal with the trials and tribulations of a typical pub day. This mostly means coping with the wide variety of bizarre (and bothersome) customers, including cocky entrepreneur Yogi, Tourette’s-suffering “war veteran” Trevor, and Father Flaherty, a kindly man who seems harmless and respectable…until he begins drinking!
The ensemble is one of The Ale House’s strongest assets. The revolving cast of quirky characters, each bringing their own comedic style and buckets of trouble, provide the basis for most of the show’s increasingly wacky antics. Whether it’s Yogi’s attempts to make a quick buck, the bickering between regulars Joe and Robbo, or the constant interruptions by unwanted customers, the addition or re-emergence of a new personality keeps the play fresh. The characters are consistently entertaining, yet the stage is never crowded and the action never distractingly hectic.
Even better, these exaggerated, often caricature-like people on stage feel very familiar. Permanent bar fixtures Joe and Robbo are constantly offering a helping hand (with mixed results), and their love/hate relationship is both endearing and relatable. On the other end of the spectrum, you’ve got the raver out of his mind on drugs, and a shifty guy tirelessly attempting (and failing) to flog bootleg products – not completely uncommon to see in a bar or pub. If none of these characters remind you of someone you know, or even the kind of strange folk you’ve encountered one night on the town, perhaps you’ll see yourself in one of the regulars!
What truly elevates The Ale House to exciting heights is Lucy the landlady. From her opening monologue, she beckons you to join the madness, simultaneously resolving and encouraging the disarray in her pub. Essentially, Lucy is the glue which keeps the show together, the show’s shining star. She’s hilarious, outgoing, tough yet big-hearted – the perfect landlady to deal with the chaotic boozers.
A massive amount of praise also goes towards the set, laid out to accurate resemble the average pub. Drinks are constantly flowing, the toilet’s constantly overflowing, and there’s even a jukebox in the corner for those moments someone wants a song (even if nobody else does). It’s appealing enough to make anyone want to drink there, even with the presence of people like the easily-aggravated, aptly-nicknamed Kick Off!
So how can The Ale House be summed up? For one, it’s engaging. Even at opening time, there’s never a quiet moment in the pub, and therefore there’s never a quiet moment for the audience. It drags you into the madness, almost as if you were sat in a pub watching an old woman guess Joe’s age by feeling his testicles instead of seeing it on stage.
The play is also incredibly accessible. The banter never alienates, nor does it patronise; it connects with a wider audience instead of limiting its jokes to specific parts of the audience. Its cast, whether relatable or completely bizarre, never take you out of the experience.
Most of all? It’s fun. What unfolds on-stage can be described in many ways – crazy, charming and heart-warming, for example – but at the end of the day it wants you to enjoy yourself. With plenty of laughs a minute, a strong selection of characters, and a loveable landlady at the heart of it all, The Ale House is most definitely entertaining. This is hopefully one pub that welcomes you with open arms for a long time!