Brick up the Mersey Tunnels

Dave Kirby and Nicky Allt
Royal Court Liverpool
Royal Court Liverpool

You don’t necessarily need a degree in geo-politics to know that the Wirral peninsula is and has always been a place of aspiration. That the peninsula therefore often prefers its serviettes blue rather than red will probably come as no surprise.

Thus the foundations for Kirby and Allt’s Brick up the Mersey Tunnels are laid: the ‘posh’ folk of the peninsula look down upon their less affluent neighbours from across the water, a premise that has been a running joke around these parts since anyone can remember.

So when salt-of the-earth Liverpool born ‘n’ bred tradesman and serial fantasist Dickie (Andrew Schofield) gets on the wrong side of the Wirral’s answer to Hyacinth Bouquet, Anne Twacky (Eithne Browne), battle lines are drawn. Us against them.

Viewers of TV sitcom Keeping Up Appearances will get more than just a fleeting sense of déjà vu watching as Browne orders henpecked hubby Dennis Twacky (Roy Brandon) around the interior of their tastefully appointed morning room (living room to those of a scouse disposition).

If anything, Browne manages to be even more grating than Patricia Routledge, which is saying something. The addition of a Mollie Sugden wig and plethora of Mrs Slocombe ‘pussy’ gags will have you either falling off your stool or tearing out your hair.

Enlisting the help of Gerard (Paul Duckworth) and Nick Walton (Carl Chase)—the ‘Kensington three’—Schofield hatches a plot to brick up the Mersey Tunnel, the aim of which is to keep those snobby Wirralians (we’re aliens) out of Liverpool.

Throw in some rather earthy comedy at the local café, where the prospect of waitress Maggie’s (Suzanne Collins) baps keep the three amigos more than happy and where some rather jivey Dennis Potter moments occur, then this should be a home win for the Royal Court. Away fans however might find themselves less than enthused.

Although knowledge of local folklore is not absolutely essential to enjoy this, a smattering will certainly help the night flow that little easier. Thus Schofield’s request for a ‘Rex Makin’ (bacon butty) certainly becomes a lot more comprehensible if one is aware that Mr Makin used to be a well-known Liverpool solicitor.

Not sure about nationalism, but parochialism certainly seems to be alive and kicking around these parts.
While this production certainly plays to the ‘preferences’ of its audience, it does so regrettably at the expense of subtlety. At times the ‘us and them’ satire feels mean-spirited, occasionally verging on aggressive.

Someone has a very large axe to grind here, but why that should be so I really couldn’t say. What is usually good-natured banter between dwellers either side of the river becomes something much darker and meaner in this production.

The more memorable moments revolve around a stream of laugh-out-loud gags delivered with expert timing by Schofield. A little less in the way of ‘effin and jeffin’ would have been appreciated, but that’s just down to personal taste. And Carl Chase’s voice is pure Bourneville—a mouthwatering fusion of velvet and cocoa. Meanwhile, Suzanne Collins always lights up the stage.

Frankly though it’s not quite enough. With a little more in the way of generosity of spirit and less in the way of spite, Brick up the Mersey Tunnels would arguably be a much more enjoyable night out. As it is, this is more hate than love thy neighbour.

Reviewer: David Sedgwick

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