Irish Annie’s review – it’s the Ricky Tomlinson show | Theatre


Is that a look of delight or terror in the eyes of the cast when Ricky Tomlinson takes to the stage? He is the big draw in this patchwork show (I hesitate to use the word play), in which the regulars at a pub called Irish Annie’s take turns to interrupt a jolly set of singalong favourites by the band on stage.

Tomlinson is nominally a character called Scouse Pete, but is actually just Tomlinson. Dressed like Jim Royle in The Royle Family, mustard T-shirt, slip-ons and lank grey hair, the 82-year-old is in full-on anecdote mode.

As we are in St Helens, he gives us the one about local boy Johnny Vegas needing a massage on the set of Grimsby. As writer Andy Lynch is in the house, he recalls his Brookside breakthrough as Bobby Grant. And as he is Ricky Tomlinson, he reminds us of his run-ins with Cilla Black, his meeting with Norman Wisdom and his imprisonment after a 1972 strike. The overturning of his conviction in 2021 gets a cheer.

He could go on with this stuff forever, which seems to alarm singer and director Asa Murphy, watching from stage left. He knows it’s time for Tomlinson to do the pub quiz and urges him to get on with the show. The quiz turns out to be a series of Christmas-cracker jokes enlivened by Tomlinson throwing sweets into the audience as prizes.

It’s feeble stuff, but thanks to Tomlinson’s generous bark of a laugh, the exertions of host Catherine Rice, who has more enthusiasm than script, and spirited renditions of The Wild Rover, Brown Eyed Girl and Danny Boy, they just about get away with it.

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