My second day in Liverpool began when I woke at 8.15, which is quite unheard of for me. Possible reasons for my late arrival to Friday were supremely effective heavy-draped curtains in my room, which created a complete blackout, and my body’s need to keep rebuilding strength and stamina. I have been staying at The Shankly Hotel for many years, mainly because of its proximity to St George’s Hall (in fact, as I drew the curtains I had a fine view of the great old Palladian building), and it is a hotel that I feel comfortable in. It has changed a little over the years, for when I first stayed it was very much a Liverpool Football Club supporter’s heaven – with the lobby and every room dedicated to the life and career of one of LFC’s finest managers, Bill Shankly. You would fall asleep looking up at one of his inspirational quotes, and the material padding on the room doors were of the same texture as a football. In recent years, though, the hotel has embraced the party vibe of the city, and the tone has changed from dugout to dancefloor. I was staying on the 5th floor, the corridor was painted a vibrant pink, and all of the rooms had not only numbers, but names too, names to make a mother blush: Sin, Adam (Eve was demurely next door), Temptation and my own room, Desire. Desire contained beds for 4 and a jacuzzi hot tub for the same number. I imagine that I am one of the quieter guests on the fifth floor……
The Shankly did not have chefs in on a Friday morning, so breakfast was being served in the sister hotel across the street – The Dixie Dean. Liverpool is a city divided from a footballing point of view, with two tribes supporting either the reds of LFC or the blues of Everton. I imagine that the owner of The Shankly realised that he was reducing his possible local clientele by half, so opened a second hotel named in honour of one of the greats of Everton. I made my way across the street and had a most enjoyable breakfast, feeling slightly traitorous, and then returned to my room, where I rested for a long while. I didn’t need to be back at St George’s Hall until 1pm, so had plenty of time. At around 11 I walked into the city and joined the throngs of Christmas shoppers bustling here and there through the great Liverpool1 shopping complex. Liverpool always makes me feel very festive and Christmassy, for there is a wonderful atmosphere on the streets. While I walked my phone ran out of battery, for I had left my charging lead in my dressing room at St George’s Hall, but I knew roughly what the time was. I returned to my hotel room, collected some fresh shirts, and then walked up to the hall ready for my matinee performance. I had forgotten, however, that to be granted access to St George’s I needed to call the duty manager, and my phone was inactive. I stood outside the door, and knocked and banged at the door, to no avail. Another young man stood at the door next to me, and I guessed he was an audience member arriving early, for his T shirt was emblazoned with the message ‘Scrooge and Marley. Accountants.’ After a while I saw a member of the St George’s Hall Staff walking by, and asked him if he could alert the manager to my presence, which he kindly did.
I said hello to everyone who were setting up the bar, and my merchandise table, and made my way up to the dressing room, and onto stage where Taz and I did a quick sound check to make sure that everything was still functioning correctly, and I made sure that everything was as it should be on the stage, before shutting myself into dressing room, drinking lots of water, and just relaxng.
The afternoon show was due to start at 2.30 and as usual the audience would be entertained by a choir, before I took to the stage. Usually the choir is one of a few very fine community choirs from Liverpool or The Wirral peninsula, but on Friday both the audience and I were in for a special treat, for Lynne had arranged for students from the West Kirby Grammar School to sing on the stage. From my dressing room I could hear the choir gathering, and assuming that it was one of the usual troupes, I opened the door to say hello, and was amazed to find 30 or so teenagers, anxiously talking, waiting to walk into the bright stage lights. We chatted until it was time for them to perform, and I wished them all good luck and told then to enjoy themselves, and in turn many told me to ‘break a leg’. When they were on stage I went up to the gallery and slipped in the door to watch them sing their first two songs, and they performed beautifully. I always like to watch the choirs from up on the gallery, for two reasons. One, it gives me the opportunity to listen to amazing singing in a setting designed purely to enhance it, and second, it gives me an opportunity to take a look at the audience, and judge what sort of performance we are about to share.
After the girls had completed their second piece, I slipped back down to the wing space, put my scarf and top hat on and waited to begin. As the choir came off stage I congratulated them, and then turned my thoughts to my own performance. The energy that I always get from the Concert Room inspired me, and the performance was a really good one, with the inevitable few coughs along the way. The audience were very good, and the ovation at the end was a typically loud Liverpool stomp! Having left the stage I changed slowly into a fresh costume, before going down to the lobby to sign copies of my book (which we sold out of) and chat to excited and bubbling audience members, one of who was the young gentleman whose T shirt I had complimented on the pavement a couple of hours before. It turns out that he is working on the script for a new musical version of A Christmas Carol, and we talked about my adaptation, and the direction he is taking his version in, that being darker more intense than the norm.
When the signing session as finished, I went back to The Shankly, and rested for a while, before showering and walking back to the Hall for the evening show, stopping to buy a large freshly cooked Bratwurst from the Christmas market which was crowded and noisy.
In the dressing room, I finished my hot dog, and then got into costume ready for a 7.30 start. The choir was one of the regular one,ms and for this show the choir leader had asked me if I minded them performing a medley from The Muppets Christmas Carol, I wouldn’t think it in any way disrespectful? It was thoughtful and kind of her to ask, and of course I said yes, go for it!
The evening audience were not as demonstrative as some of the other St George’s Hall groups, but they were intense, listening, following. There was no rustling or fidgeting, and in the pauses the atmosphere in the hall was heavy. The applause at the end of the first act was very loud, as was the applause when I returned to the stage at the start of act 2, and the final explosion of applause at the end of the show was amazing, filling me with a huge sense of reward and satisfaction.
Despite my physical limitations, I had given three very strong performances in Liverpool, in ‘the most perfect hall in the world