REVIEW: The Shankly Show @ BT Convention Centre 17/12/09

After a successful commission for 2008 and, as the red half of the city commemorates the 50th Anniversary since legendary manager Bill Shankly’s first game in charge at Liverpool football club, Andrew Sherlock’s The Shankly Show returned this December with a couple of special shows at the BT Convention Centre.

The Shankly Show was such a success in the capital of culture year that the production moved from initial dates at the Olympia to a further sell out run at the more central Royal Court venue. These two shows in the 1,300 capacity conference centre adjoining the Echo Arena have yet again enjoyed positive ticket sales as fans of the club young and old assemble to witness a piece of Liverpool F.C. history.

Tonight held special significance as the Shankly family were in attendance to receive an honorary citizenship of the city on behalf of the former manager. Shankly’s grand daughter Karen Gill, who had travelled from her home in Greece to receive the accolade said  “For the city of Liverpool to do this for him is a really great honour”

Liverpool’s Lord Mayor Mike Storey presented the award and said that Shankly had “Restored pride and put a smile on the face of the city on his arrival at the club”

After a passionate introduction from writer Andrew Sherlock the show, 45 minutes each way, kicked off with lone actor Sandy West speaking the words “Fresh air, green grass to play on and a ball to kick” echoing the simplistic back to basics football that Shanks brought to the club when he joined in 1959.

 

The play based in the famous Anfield boot room, follows the ups and downs of the manager’s tenure at the club as he brought the team from the depths of the second division to the pinnacle of the world game, a legacy which still resonates today. Tied together with footage on a large screen above the stage, the dialogue is delivered with such accuracy and skill that it sends you back to a time when the club and the city where filled with hope as trophies arrived and the city centre buzzed to the sound of Merseybeat. West’s portrayal of the legendary manager is a triumph as he reels off many of the man’s most famous and inspiring quotes. From the simple: “Pass the ball to another player wearing red and, if in doubt out, put it in the opposition’s net”, the matter of fact: “If you are first you are first. If you are second, you are nothing.” and the humorous :”If Everton were playing at the bottom of the garden, I’d pull the curtains.”

As well as the march to glory, the story also opens old wounds such as the referee influenced 1965 European Cup semi final defeat to Inter Milan and a six year trophy-less run which began to sew the seeds of doubt inside the mind of the ultra confident Shankly. But it was the ’65 and ’74 FA Cup wins which featured strongly before the tale ends with Shankly’s departure in the summer of ’74

This inspiring show is a must for any red and it’s a great shame that it will struggle to receive recognition outside of the city as loyalties will prevent anyone other than Liverpool supporters attending or enjoying the performance.

A commemoratives DVD is available now at HMV.com

 

Reviewed by: Rich Denton

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