Sleep didn’t come easy on my first night in Liverpool, as the Shankly reverberated to the various parties it was hosting late into the night and early into the morning. It didn’t help that the couple in the next room seemed to have had a disagreement, and he kept leaving and then coming back and continuing their argument through the door, as she refused to let him back in…..
The last time I checked my clock was at 2am, so I assume I must have dropped off around that time. Fortunately I didn’t have an early start, as my first show was not due until 2.pm, so I could sleep for as long as I needed into Saturday morning, which, naturally, was not that long.
Breakfast at The Shankly is an impressive buffet, and I availed myself of a full English, with plenty of refills of coffee (the cups were far too small and needing lots of replenishing). I went back to the room and caught up with some emails and waited for the city to come alive. I was planning to walk into the city centre and complete a little Christmas shopping in Saturday morning, as well as trying to get a float for the remaining merchandise sales.
Liverpool 1 is a large, open shopping mall that embraces many of the city’s historic districts and stretches down to the banks of the River Mersey. Like any port city Liverpool is exciting, brash, vibrant and loud and has its own distinct personality and on that Saturday morning the shopping district was busy.
Hopeful musicians performed their latest songs, or covers of old ones, hoping to be discovered and follow in the footsteps of The Beatles, whilst elsewhere various political factions shouted their opinions over small PA systems (at one point, two diametrically opposed groups had set up camp in the same street and spent the time shouting abuse at their rivals – even making occasional forays to pull each other’s displays down). Another stall was selling English translations of The Qur’an, and a recorded message continually broadcast the fact that it was available. It was a very strange phenomenon to see, but lots of people stuck their fingers in their ears as they walked passed, as if even hearing the words would somehow effect them.
Peace on Earth and goodwill to all men……
Having bought the gifts I needed, I then went in search of cash, and to my dismay discovered that my own bank wasn’t open. I tried a few other companies, but they all said the same – ‘you have to have an account with us to change money’. One helpful lady suggested the post office may be able to help, so I walked to the local branch and patiently stood in line, and here part of my show almost came true.
At the point in the story when Scrooge and The Ghost of Christmas Present stand on the streets of London, Dickens describes the people as being so busy and eager that ‘sometimes they tumbled up against each other’, at which point I strike a pugilistic pose, and if possible make a little ‘ad lib’. In America I suggest that this moment is like Black Friday, but in the UK I will often mention the local shopping mall, saying something like ‘Liverpool 1 on Christmas eve!’
Well, on Saturday as I stood in the post office, the guy in front of me was trying to draw his benefits from an account, but none of his cards were working, the patient cashier patiently explaining to him that he had already withdrawn all of his available funds. Unfortunately, such reasoning didn’t work as he was obviously much the worse the wear from some substance or other. Eventually a manager was called, which didn’t help either, at which time the queue behind me began to get impatient, and one man shouted ‘Just get out of here’, well that ignited the situation, as the guy at the counter rounded quickly, fists flying and screaming every obscenity he could think of. Fortunately in his impaired state none of the blows landed, but he stood staring with bulging eyes, daring his opponent to respond, which he was about to do, when security arrived. In reality there was none of the calm resolution described in A Christmas Carol and maybe there was no spirit present to shed drops of water on the two men. Instead of happily saying that ‘It was a shame to quarrel….’ the two were parted and led away. Phew. Oh, and the post office wouldn’t exchange cash either!
The morning drifted on and I returned to the hotel to prepare for the afternoon’s show. I showered to re-energise myself and took the short walk back to St George’s Hall, where Tas was already setting up. Having watched the show, and pondered overnight, he had had a few ideas, the most obvious one being to add a lingering echo to Jacob Marley’s final line as he floats away out of the window. We rehearsed the scene a few times just to be sure of the timing, and then I went back to my dressing room to prepare.
At the 2 o’clock Saturday show we had a small choir present to entertain the crowds as they arrived (in fact they had been booked for all of the shows, but had cancelled the two evening performances due to the members not feeling comfortable using crowded public transport at night.) Initially the singers sung in the large foyer area, and then at 2pm moved up onto the stage to perform in the Concert Hall itself which was perfectly suited for the beautiful choral harmonies that they created. The audience were suitably impressed and gave the singers a great ovation, as they filed off the stage.
Lynne made her introduction, the lights dimmed and I began once again. The Saturday matinee was played to an almost full house and was another excellent show. I was on good form (and even managed to perform all of the scenes in the order in which they had been written), as were the audience. We had great fun with the aromas of the goose, and with Mrs Cractchit’s pudding, and Tas subtly changed the levels of lighting, as well as adding his echoes to Jacob Marley’s voice (not only when the ghost left, as we had rehearsed, but also during the reprise of that line at the opening of act 2).
Again Liverpool gave me a huge and loud response and I lingered on the stage to make the most of it. It is very moving, but Merseyside has really welcomed me over the years, indeed almost adopted me as one of their own.
The afternoon audience had a good many children in it, which was lovely to see, and at the signing session one young boy asked ‘which ghost did I think helped Scrooge the most?’ I said I have always thought that Past is the one who starts everything, and prepares Scrooge to learn, but I also said that wasn’t the correct answer, just my opinion, and asked which one he thought. He plumped for ‘the jolly guy!’ because he showed him what might happen to Tiny Tim, which is an excellent answer too.
After I had finished and changed, I purchased myself a large Bratwurst hot dog from the Christmas market and returned to the hotel for a couple of hours. I discovered that ‘The Man Who Invented Christmas’ was on the TV, so I watched a little of that with great interest, before showering and getting ready for my last show in Liverpool for this year. Before leaving the hotel I asked the restaurant if they would put a slice of cheesecake aside for me (the kitchens would be closed by the time I got back), so that I could have a little something to wind down with.
The Saturday night audience was the smallest of the three and therefore, the quietest, and my performance wasn’t quite as strong as the other two, I could feel the tiredness effecting me and the temptation was to over-compensate a little, which I tried not to do. It was one of those shows where the audience response wasn’t as lively during the show, but at the end there was an explosion of cheering and clapping, showing me that they had been fully engaged throughout. Rosalie, my Great Expectations-loving hotel greeter, had come to the evening show, and I knew that the voiced that shouted out ‘EVERY ONE!’ to finish the final line, was hers.
There was not much signing to be done, as we had pretty well sold everything, so I could start the process of getting all of my things packed away quickly. I changed, packed my various cases, and loaded all of the furniture into the lift to take them down to the ground floor level, where the St George’s Hall team helped me to load the car (which I had retrieved from The Shankly’s parking garage.)
Back at he hotel I went to the bar and my cheesecake was produced. Rosalie was there and gushed with excitement about the show, and then introduced me to the social media manager of the hotel. It seemed a strange time of the night to conduct business, but I suggested that The Shankly should come on board as an event sponsor in the future!
Eventually I said my goodnights and went up to my room. On the following morning I would need to be on the road by 9am, so I made sure that everything was packed, and then retired for the night.
It had been a very enjoyable and very successful two days in Liverpool, and hopefully I will be back in 2022.