Interview: 'It's A Complete One-Off': Writer Jonathan Harvey and Director Stephen Fletcher on SISTERS OF MERSEY at Liverpool's Royal Court

‘They’ll have a dance, a sing-along and a great night out.’

By: Jun. 26, 2024
Interview: 'It's A Complete One-Off': Writer Jonathan Harvey and Director Stephen Fletcher on SISTERS OF MERSEY at Liverpool's Royal Court
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Following the success of Eurovision themed show A Thong for Europe in 2023 at Liverpool’s Royal Court, writer Jonathan Harvey and director Stephen Fletcher are back with a brand new comedy - Sisters of Mersey.

Ahead of the show opening on July 5, BroadwayWorld visited the rehearsal rooms and sat down with Jonathan and Stephen to find out more.

You’re both collaborating on a new show called Sisters of Mersey at Liverpool’s Royal Court. Can you tell us a little bit about what the audience can expect?

Jonathan: It’s a very serious piece. (Jonathan and Stephen both laugh) No, it’s an over-the-top comedy, set in a convent in Liverpool in the eighties. A musical with eighties hits, about two nuns who have been brought up believing that they are identical twins, even though they don’t look like each other. When one of them finds out that she has a real twin in the outside world, they leave the convent to go and find her birth family and get caught up in a heist.

Interview: 'It's A Complete One-Off': Writer Jonathan Harvey and Director Stephen Fletcher on SISTERS OF MERSEY at Liverpool's Royal Court
Photo Credit: Jonathan Harvey

What inspired Sisters of Mersey?

Jonathan: When we did A Thong for Europe and the theatre said, “Would you like to do something like this again?”, we talked and I loved some of the actors at the Royal Court…It sort of came from that and thinking what do I want to see on that stage and what world do I want to be in and what sort of story do I want to tell. It was things like that.

Lindzi Germain, Keddy Sutton and Emma Bispham were all in A Thong For Europe and they're being joined by Natalie Blair, Gabriel Fleary and Keshia Santos for Sisters of Mersey. How are rehearsals going?

Stephen: We’ve had a great time. The Royal Court is sort of like a rep company with a gang of people that you dip in and out of; it was good to mix it up this time. It brings a fresh energy and a new take. We’ve just been piecing it together slowly. We’ve got movement director Carrie-Anne Ingrouille - I worked with her in Paris and she choreographed Six, the musical, so she’s brought another level to the show. It’s what the audience deserves. It’s a unique place the Royal Court and I think they [the audience] deserve the best version of what they are expecting, so that’s the ambition with this. It’s good.

How does it feel to be returning to Liverpool’s Royal Court following the success of A Thong for Europe?

Jonathan: It’s like creating a different style of show for this theatre that I wouldn’t really create anywhere for else. What’s lovely about working with Stephen, because he has done so much here - this is only my second show here - it’s what kind of night of fun and frivolity can we create that will really make these people laugh and give them a good night out. It’s lovely to create something like that.

Stephen: It’s a complete one-off. I’ve been in lots of the plays. The very first one I was in was in 2007 and that was Stags and Hens. That was kind of the beginning of the Royal Court as we know it now. The first Christmas show was Merry Ding Dong - I was in that - and now the Christmas shows have…I’ve seen this’s unapologetic fun. That’s what people have come to see.

Interview: 'It's A Complete One-Off': Writer Jonathan Harvey and Director Stephen Fletcher on SISTERS OF MERSEY at Liverpool's Royal Court

You’ve mentioned there’s going to be a few eighties hits in this and I fondly remember the homage to A-Ha’s "Take on Me" in Scouse Jack and the Beanstalk at Liverpool’s Royal Court, which you directed Stephen. Can we expect any surprises like this?

Stephen: There’s lots of eighties tunes, but we haven’t come close to trying to recreate a video. We’ve done something different.

Jonathan: In A Thong for Europe, we tried to recreate some of the dance routines because it was for Eurovision. This is more about telling the stories of the nuns.

Stephen: And there’s a few little technical clever things we’re aiming for. You do have that clever storytelling, this is what the next half of the film is going to be about. We’ve tried to do a bit of that in Act two. The set is amazing. We’ve got Mark Walters, who has done a lot of stuff for Liverpool’s Royal Court. He designed Mam I’m ‘Ere and he’s just designed the Palladium Pantomime. Again, he did Stags and Hens, he designed that show I was in. It’s very ambitious. It’s like a little jewellery box - it does clever things. It’s a visual treat.

The synopsis says ‘there’s twins and another set of twins’ - what is it about duo comedies that people love?

Stephen: As a device, you’ve got the set up and the pay off. You’ve got that kind of interplay that you can see onstage - and there is a short hand of course between Keddy and Lindzi, having worked together so much, that they hit the ground running straight away. And Jonathan has written especially for them. Before the read through, you saw Sister Petra and Sister Fionola and you just knew who was who, without having to know who the cast was and the audience love that.

Interview: 'It's A Complete One-Off': Writer Jonathan Harvey and Director Stephen Fletcher on SISTERS OF MERSEY at Liverpool's Royal Court

Has there ever been a moment where a member of the cast has done something in rehearsals and you go, ‘oh that’s good, let’s keep that in?’

Jonathan: Loads of times. It's a lovely atmosphere in the rehearsal room and we just want to make it the best it can be. If there is a happy mistake, we’ll keep it in.

Stephen: This place is full of a real hybrid of actors who are also stand-ups, actors who have got their own creative input, and so you have to be open to taking the best of that. You can’t be closed to that. With exception - you’ve got an idea of where to go. You commit to that, but if there are happy accidents along the way, you’d be a fool not to take those little gems.

Together and apart you’ve given us some amazing shows. After Sisters of Mersey, is there a story you’d both love to collaborate on?

Jonathan: I’d love to work with Stephen again.

Stephen: Same!

Jonathan: I’m hoping they’ll ask us to do another show again in a years time. I’ve got no ideas yet though.

Stephen: We can guarantee people an escape, a laugh, fun at a time when I feel loads of people need it. They’ll have a dance, a sing along and a great night out.

Can you sum up the show in three words?

Jonathan: Seriously daft comedy.

Sisters of Mersey is at Liverpool’s Royal Court from 5 July - 3 August 2024.

Rehearsal photo credits: Clara Mbirimi


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