Liverpool Playhouse. Merkin, Ros (9781846317477). Hardback.

Liverpool Playhouse. Merkin, Ros (9781846317477). Hardback.

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From its outset, the Liverpool Playhouse has been inextricably linked to the history of the city in which it was built. The impetus to create it came from the burgeoning civic pride engendered by the city’s growing wealth and its status as ‘second city of empire’; but its opening in 1911 was delayed by the transport strikes which hit the city. Over the following century, the history of the theatre, with all its ups and its downs, has reflected the history of Liverpool – and at times the city itself has appeared on stage as a key character. While often perceived as Liverpool’s ‘safe’ theatre, the Playhouse – from its inception as only the third repertory theatre in the country (following Manchester and Glasgow) to the dazzlingly creative period of the ‘Gang of Four’ (Bleasdale, Bond, Morrison and Russell) in the early 1980s, and up to the present day – has broken new ground and issued new challenges. Home over the years to many well known actors, including Michael Redgrave, Rachel Kempson, Robert Donat, Anthony Hopkins, Patrick Stewart, Rita Tushingham, Patricia Routledge and Richard Briers, the Playhouse remains one of the most vibrant British theatres.

A comprehensive history to celebrate the centenary of the oldest surviving repertory theatre in the country. Draws on the Playhouse’s rich archival resources and contains new interviews with key actors and directors.

So this is both a book that can be dipped into for interesting quotations and anecdotes and to look at photos of actors when they were much younger and a story that can be read through, but it can also be valuable as a resource for more serious students of regional theatre, showing how it has responded to a changing social and political climate over the last century.

The British Theatre Guide

Liverpool Playhouse: A Theatre & Its City remains a fine and important work that should be enjoyed by experts and enthusiasts alike.

Theatre Research International, Volume 37/3

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