"Brian Jacques brings to life every character your Mam an Dad ever told you about (or warned you against), The women and kids, the bobbies and baddies, the characters and comedians. They all interweave in song and story. Scouse in the raw, liberally spiced with the flavour of the times. National Service. Compulsory purchase. Unions and docks. Life and death. Love and violence. So don't knock, walk right in, get yer feet under the table and muck in (yer at yer ninny's). PS: Also includes God."
-Press release for Brown Bitter, Wet Nellies and Scouse
From the 1950s onward, Liverpool entered a re-construction phase, however the loss of many employers never allowed the city to truly thrive once more.
In recent years, the city has been re-establishing it's economy through tourism (The Beatles) and and cultural features (the River Mersey). Now, decades later, Liverpool served as the European Capital of Culture in 2008.
Brown Bitter, Wet Nellies and Scouse takes place during Liverpudlian rebuilding in the year 1950, or to be more precise, it is "a play of Liverpool as it was on June 15th, 1950," which, according to local publicity was "just before they pulled it all down."
Brian Jacques was born June 15, 1939, so he would have been 11 years old during the setting of the show.
The play was produced between 1981-82 (the 18th season) at the Everyman Theatre, where Brian Jacques was the Resident Writer. This was his first play for the Everyman, and as such was a musical. Many of the actors in the play went on to have prominent careers in film and television.
The official description is as follows:
"Brian Jacques' first play for the Everyman celebrated life on the streets of the city – where people went to celebrate and protest together - and the sense of community which had been lost with the arrival of high-rise blocks."
During his tenure at the Everyman, Brian also contributed to the play Infirmary Tales.
But what does the title mean?
The three things in the title all refer to types of food or drink directly related to Liverpool.
- "Brown Bitter" is a type of beer found commonly all over the UK.
- "Wet Nellies" is a type of dessert made from stale cake.
- "Scouse" is a stew of meat, vegetables, and biscuits eaten by sailors, as Liverpool is a port city.
- Jonathan Barlow - Corporation Man, Johnny Macbaine
- Carl Chase - Danny 'Diesel'
- Mary Cunningham - Mary Dripping
- Graham Fellows - Ronny Marsden
- Eithne Hannigan - Kathleen Macbaine
- Noreen Kershaw - Dolly Finnegan
- John McArdle - Harry Lime
- Mark McGann - Police Constable
- Mia Soteriou - Cissy McGuiness
- Phil Whitchurch - Father McAlliney
- The Children - Roles alternated Everyman Youth Theatre
- Carlene Lundon/Anne Lundon - Teresa Finnegan
- Jake Abraham/Colin Foley - Royston Finnegan
- Mark Jacques/Keith Maiker - Montgomery Finnegan
- Sandra Brown/Julie Deakin - Margaret Duffy
- Writer: Brian Jacques
- Director: Bob Eaton
- Designed: Bill Tidy
- Assistant: Sue Mayes
- Music directed/composed by: Chris Monks
- Costumes: Sue Mayes
- Production Manager: Bob Maurenski
- Lighting Designer: Kevin Fitzsimons
- Sound: Richard Dunkley
- Stage Manager: Andy Gale
- Deputy Stage Manager: Ivor Benjamin
- Assistant Stage Manager: Maggie Royce
- Wardrobe Mistress: Sheila Gregory
- Wardrobe Assistant: Amanda Foxley
- Trainee Scene Painter: Cliff Richardson
- Brown Bitter
- 5 years after 1945
- Only the pub on the corner
- In the Pub
- They don't build streets nowadays
- If you pull down our street
- Buskers Song
- There's Goin Ter Be Some Trouble Tango
- The Nine O'Clock Walk
- Muck in, Yer at Yer Ninnies
- The Guinness Song
- Final Song
Five years after the end of World War II, the Liverpool denizens are struggling with unemployment and rising prices for goods and services.
As locals congregate in their pub to take a break from their daily strife, an official from the city (Corporation Man) is taking measurements and putting up notices regarding the re-zoning of the neighborhood; it's going to be bulldozed, along with other areas of Liverpool, for the construction of new estates and skyscrapers.
This clearly upsets the citizens, who immediately feel violated and are quite comfortable in their homes, which have been in the same location for decades. Cissy McGuiness , who is particularly disturbed, claims that the town planners are "doin' more damage t'liverpool than 'itler ever did."
Meanwhile, neighborhood resident Johnny MacBaine has broken out of military prison, and is looking to find his adulterous wife, Kathleen. After avoiding police by hiding in the pub, MacBaine spots his wife later that evening while she is having a rendezvous with her lover, Ronny Marsden. When she departs the scene, Johnny murders Ronny with a hook.
As the locals are convening in the pub the next day, Johnny shows up to confront Kathleen, however he is stopped by the priest who is known to frequent the pub (condemning the sinful ways of the locals by confiscating their beer, for himself), Father McAlliney, who manages to calm him down.
A young constable shows up and attempts to arrest Johnny, however Johnny is quite clever and manages to make a quick escape. The ensuing noise in the background soonafter though indicates he is indeed caught by other officers.
The Corporation Man arrives at the pub, looking for his tape measure which he has misplaced. When he can't find it, he leaves, muttering about how he can't wait for the pub and ones like it to be pulled down.
The town's residents reflect upon their future, and decide that the forthcoming redevelopments may in fact be for the better, and that change can be positive, even if it is unwanted.
The official programme from the February 1982 performance.
|Early works of Brian Jacques|
Get Yer Wack: A Liverpool Anthology | Yennoworrameanlike | According to Jacques: A Mersey Bible | Scouse with the Lid Off | Jakestown: My Liverpool | Brian Jacques Meets Paddy Kelly | Brown Bitter, Wet Nellies and Scouse | Infirmary Tales | Wordplays 1 | Fireside Tales