Fly, Everyman, Liverpool

Flying in the face of adversity
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The Independent Culture

The murky waters in which Frank and Sammy fished as school pals have not changed much. Now in their twenties, the boys are back at the river, maggoty bait impaled on their hooks, but the catch is still rubbish. There's a load of detritus, too, in the undercurrents beneath the surface of Katie Douglas's first play, Fly.

The murky waters in which Frank and Sammy fished as school pals have not changed much. Now in their twenties, the boys are back at the river, maggoty bait impaled on their hooks, but the catch is still rubbish. There's a load of detritus, too, in the undercurrents beneath the surface of Katie Douglas's first play, Fly.

Frank is married to Sammy's sister, Louise, and their life in some deprived area on the west coast of Scotland seems hopeless. Fly may bear the stamp "Made in Liverpool" which the Liverpool Everyman and Playhouse team have so determinedly put in place in its first season of homegrown work, but "Gang frae Glasgae" might be closer to the mark.

Except for the many four-letter words -which have a way of penetrating any dialect - the heavy Scottish accent means that, along with some punchy lines, what little humour there is in Fly is lost, unless, like me, you're Scots. (Liverpudlians can note that the Everyman opens next season, its 40th, with the premieres of two new Liverpool plays.)

Matthew Lloyd draws stinging performances from his trio of performers trapped in the angst of modern urban life, unable to confront home truths. Sammy (David Jenkins) who's worked his way up to become small fry in banking, and is possibly a repressed gay, has come home.

Confined by the limitations of his own imagination, Frank is still a big kid, trapped in a dead-end job, his only interests bevvy, footie, TV and the secrets in his ramshackle hut. Marriage and fatherhood fuel his pent-up anger, bruisingly conveyed in Simon Donaldson's manic laughter and unpredictable behaviour. Eve Dallas captures the vulnerability of Louise, a fearful and uncertain victim, fiercely trying to convince herself and her brother that everything in the garden is rosy.

It's clear there's not much joy and precious little hope in Frank and Louise's dismal council house, cunningly designed by Robin Don as part of a composite set within a fishing loop. Frank is a fly one though, stashing away his pay packet instead of paying the rent. Money is the means of escape, but for whom?

In the end there are no flies on Louise, and yet we're left unsure as to whether or not any of their drab lives will be greatly changed. Did Frank have the guts to move on, was Sammy genuinely trying to help?

It's difficult to "read the river" since Katie Douglas, though a promising young writer, never quite casts her net sufficiently wide to develop her themes or make you care about her characters.

It's easy enough to go with the flow, though, since Frank, Sammy and Louise, when brought to such raw life as they are here, hold a certain awful fascination.

Fly may not be the play with which Douglas makes her name but, as the old saying goes, you can't catch a fish without casting a line on the water.

To 10 July (0151 709 4776)

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