Royal Court Theatre, Liverpool
January 25 – February 10, 2018
Writer / Director: Anne Dalton
Music: Greg Last
Choreography: Nazene Danielle
Adult Principals: Peter Brindle, Georgia Chadwick, Janet Cowley, Molly Cranmer, Lindzi Germain, James Jarman, John McGrellis and David Thomas
Young Principals: Louie Gray, Evie Kaufman, Sophia Wilkinson-Hill
Adult Characters: Abigail Bradbury, Jack Brown, Elliott Hanna, Mollie Hirst, Joey Jennings, Lisle des Landes, Victoria Platt, Tony Prince
Junior Ensemble: Daniel Coxhead, Charlotte Dowson, Evie Harrington, Paige Harvey, Mia Leppert, Niamh Riley, Lilly Scully, Summer Tansley, Molly Thorpe-Franklin, Skye Wright
Running Time: 2hrs 40 mins
PICTURE (c) Zanto Digital
REVIEWER: Jamie Gaskin
It’s refreshing to see a Liverpool-based play such as Her Benny, currently running at The Liverpool Royal Court, which does not insist that fecklessness and heavy-drinking is the city’s default setting. Yes, both feature in this Victorian tale of Dickensian grinding poverty, but they are outshone by a determined commitment to honesty and goodness.
It is 25 years since Anne Dalton brought Silas K. Hocking’s story to the stage as a musical. Serving as a Methodist Minister in Liverpool in the 19th Century, Silas Hocking saw at first hand the dreadful poverty that inspired him to write Her Benny. It became a best-seller.
It’s a simple tale of a poor boy, Benny Bates, accused of a theft he did not commit but makes good despite this handicap and dreadful heartache along the way. Perhaps a nod to Oliver Twist.
The songs are plentiful and fit the bill but not memorable. The superb singing of the principal adults only serving to underscore the difficulty the juniors had with their diction despite having good voices for their very young age.
Peter Brindle as the kindly Joe Wragg and David Thomas as the toff trying to do good take the honours as the heavyweights with the cartoon antics of housemaid Maisie (Molly Hirst) providing well received comic relief.
Janet Cowley brings us a delicate Sally Wragg whose gentleness is fully in tune with Joe’s affection for the waifs and strays who warm themselves by his night watchman’s brazier.
The two very juvenile leads were Louie Gray as Benny and Evie Kaufman as Nell the tragic little sister he works so hard to help. They both showed good stage presence and an ability to follow both stage and dance direction incredibly well. Sophia Wilkinson-Hill is quite sweet as the spoilt little rich girl Eva who loses her heart (and a lucky shilling) to Benny.
And we are not disappointed by James Jarman as the grown-up Benny who returns to claim his Eva (Mollie Cranmer) who still pines for him.
Nazene Danielle is to be congratulated on her choreography which positively sparkles. It is crisp, powerful and compelling.
If you enjoy a good sentimental tale full of human kindness, then pop along to The Royal Court and toast your hands on this little winter warmer.
Her Benny runs at The Liverpool Royal Court until February 10.
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