The Star review by LJMU English Literature student Shauna Hughes
This was the first time I had been to the Playhouse and I was very impressed by my experience. Immediately, when I arrived at the Playhouse, I was in awe of the grandeur of the building which is an incredible 150 years old. In fact, this was a key inspiration for local Birkenhead playwright, Michael Wynne: to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Playhouse or ‘the Star Music Hall’ as it was originally known back in 1866.
If, like me, you had never heard of Music Hall, then it is a genre of theatrical entertainment that started over two centuries ago. It is a spectacle to behold, consisting of a variety of acts to entertain the audience, ranging from magicians, singers, daredevils and much more. If you love Britain’s Got Talent, The X Factor and The Voice then this is definitely the show for you: for Music Hall is where it all began. My favourite ‘turn’ in The Star was Arthur Crown, with his numerous attempts to find an act that would entertain his audience. He tried magic tricks, contortion, animal acts before finally striking gold with the persona of ‘Dolores’ which reduced the audience to tears of laughter.
Throughout the play, characters frequently broke into song and the audience was encouraged to join in with the singing and the clapping. My favourite musical moment was when The Chairman, played by Michael Starke, sang ‘The Spaniard that blighted my life’. This is an authentic music hall song, dating back to 1911. Yet, over a century later it remained fresh and hilarious. This is truly an amazing show. The atmosphere of the theatre was mesmerising and I left the theatre feeling ecstatic – a great way to end my first semester!
So what is the play about? Well, essentially, The Star focuses on the running of a music hall and the lives of the theatre company both on and off stage. In this amusing yet rather dysfunctional family, the plot revolves around mystery, relationships and the art of entertainment itself. Of course, as always, there’s someone seeking companionship, and there are attempts to bring back together old flames Ida and The Chairman as well as ignite new ones Dora and Jack. In addition to this, we have the mysterious villain Mr Charles who threatens to destroy the theatre and everything associated with The Star. My favourite character was Dora - a costume assistant who longs to become an actress. In a magical performance by Helen Carter, Dora’s innocence and humour made me believe that she truly was a naïve young girl who purely wishes for love. A perfect romance for this time of year.
Inevitably, there were a couple of awkward moments in the production, such as sudden transitions from utter sadness to unbelievable joy which left the audience momentarily bewildered. Even if you think you aren’t interested in theatre, I promise that you will enjoy this theatrical extravaganza. And tickets are only £5 for LJMU students!
Shauna is a first year English Literature student at Liverpool John Moores University.
The Star is at the Playhouse until Sat 14 Jan.
Posted in PLAYHOUSE