REVIEW: Roger McGough and Brian Pattern Playing at Home, Liverpool Everyman

MEMORIES – both happy and sad – were the order of the evening as Liverpool’s most famous poets joined the ranks of those paying their respects to the current Everyman.

Obituaries are usually written after an old friend has passed on.

But not so for this much-loved Liverpool theatre where Roger McGough, Brian Patten and the late Adrian Henri first tested their material in the cellar bar.

They have changed since their “happenings” surprised and thrilled makeshift audiences, who had only stopped by for a drink and a chat.

But, while older on the outside, they remain internally and eternally young, with as much twinkle and mischief as they were famous for back in the day.

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Joining them on stage last night was guitarist Andy Roberts, who recorded the LP The Incredible New Liverpool Scene with McGough and Henri in 1967.

His soundscapes – a flavour of Nino Rota for McGough’s Mafia Cats, a Casablanca-poetry mash-up for You Must Remember This and dramatic tension for Not For Me A Young Man’s Death (all by McGough); lyrical for Patten’s Between Heaven and Woolworths – enhanced the musical qualities and rhythm of the verse.

In his warm voice, Roberts, who has played with everyone from Pink Floyd to Billy Connolly and written TV and film scores, also performed a song from his first musical, Mind Your Head, written with Adrian Mitchell and premiered at the Everyman in the early-70s.

But it was still very much the Liverpool Poets’ night as they borrowed the audience’s imaginations and took them on a journey to the city’s docks, a night out in the Blue Angel club with Bob Dylan, into a geography teacher’s map- lined classroom and to the hospital bedside of Patten’s dying mother.

We eavesdropped on quarrelling lovers, sympathised with the husbands of famous women (Mr Blyton feeling for his wife in the dark and finding only Noddy’s blue coat), laughed and then gasped at the ill-fated gangster ordering “a double moussaka and two bottles of that retinsa muck” and wondered at the lack of soul by the Minister For Exams.

While McGough won mainly laughter, Patten’s words provoked deeper emotion as he painted pictures of supping wine with Henri’s ghost in a frosty garden and regretting that his mother had no fairy godmother to rescue her from years of toiling at housework.

The new Everyman could learn a lot from studying these modern-day troubadors – changed on the outside but, inside, still displaying the same heart.

Liverpool Daily Post, 21/6/11