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Theatre review Cracking Scouse class comedy

SYLVIA HIKINS appreciates the story of a working-class lottery win that had her laughing from start to finish

The Netherley Hillbillies
Liverpool Royal Court Theatre


“COME listen to a story ‘bout a man named Jed/ Found it really hard to keep a roof over his head/ Then one day he escaped from being poor/ When the lottery machine spat out six of his balls.”

Our first view of Jed and his family is in their loaded up van, time: 2am, driving off from working-class Netherley, where they have lived, to their new house in Formby bought from the proceeds of a massive lottery win. They all sing “live without a care, be a millionaire.”

As the story unfolds, we realise it isn’t as simple as that. Their new neighbours are more used to gatehouses than outhouses. “You can’t judge a book by its cover,” declares Jed, as they attempt to iron out differences. However, Jed feels he can’t be honest about winning the lottery. Instead, he peddles a story that the family’s newfound wealth has come from the death of a distant relative, an oil magnate based in Texas. 

Those next door are financial advisers and immediately see this as a business opportunity, including instructing their son to woo Jed’s daughter who is proper Scouse, like! “There’s something about a Liverpool girl you can’t find anywhere else,” the son tells us, although we know what he really has his eye on is her newfound wealth. 

Initially, Jed takes to Formby. A staunch Liverpool Football Club supporter who always wears a red Number 7 LFC team top, he observes that in Formby, even the squirrels are red. A local joke. The National Trust woodlands in Formby have, as its major attraction, a thriving red squirrel population.

Over the next few months, challenges and problems arise, many due to class differences, plus some dramatic events. Stubborn old mother-in-law Renie can’t change her ways, continues to do all the dusting and cleaning like she’s done all her life, complaining: “By the time I’ve cleaned the top of this house, it’s time to start at the bottom.”

Jed and the family come to realise that one point in having huge wealth is to pass it on to the needy. An unpredicted move from rags to riches doesn’t change who you are, or eliminate where you are from. Jed has had the good sense to keep paying the rent on his council house in Netherley. Finally, dangling the keys in front of the family, he shouts: “Let’s go home.” The old van is back on stage for the final scene as Jed drives them back to the ’Pool, all of them loudly singing, “We’ve had enough of Formby, and we’re off to Netherley.”

Playwright Barbara Phillips has created a clever new comedy dealing with what can happen when totally contrasting lifestyles and experiences come face to face. Soap legends Vicky Entwistle and Sarah White are part of a great cast that convincingly bring every character to life. This is another affordable, great night out at Liverpool’s Royal Court Theatre that will have you laughing from start to finish.

Runs until June 22. Box Office: 0151 709 4321,


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