The Kindness of Strangers, Everyman, Liverpool

Everyman Liverpool

The Everyman could wish for no finer 40th anniversary present than a return to form. The space aches for the epic, wildly ambitious, topically contentious plays for which it became famous in the 1970s; without them, it has been starved of its essential oxygen. Tony Green's drama re-establishes the supply with such vehemence that it causes a bit of a headrush.

There has been such a dearth of these vast, scouse social panoramas of late that Green seems determined to make up the shortfall by writing what seems to be at least five plays all at once. The Kindness of Strangers is an asylum seeker's tale, a state-of-the-nation piece, a gay coming-out drama and an agoraphobic's staying-in one. He then spices things up with music, cabaret turns and a walk-on part for a couple of goats.

Green sets in train a bewildering number of storylines: Mohammed (a puppyishly adorable performance from Adam Levy) is a Kurdish refugee, Macey (Lorraine Burroughs in an outstanding professional debut) a struggling single-mum prostitute, and Jimmy (Neal Barry) a cockney cafe owner who facilitates their marriage as a business agreement.

That would be more than enough to be going on with, but Green stirs into the mix the parallel tale of Cheryl, a young Irish woman terrified of open spaces, and Sam, an unscrupulous landlord resolved to reacquaint her with them. Then there's Marvin, Sam's mountainous black hired thug, and Cliff, a fey drag queen.

If Green doesn't quite manage to develop all of these strands to an evenly balanced conclusion, then it is just as well; if he had, we might have been here all night. But it is to Green's credit that he keeps us royally entertained throughout much of the three-hour duration - and to director Gemma Bodinetz's that she didn't simply tell him to make it shorter.

· Until October 16. Box office: 0151-709 4776.


Alfred Hickling

The GuardianTramp

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