Theatre Review: ‘Shake It Up Baby!’ by Suzan Holder

Shake It Up Baby Play

Finding someone from Liverpool not knowing the words to Twist and Shout would be like, well, finding someone from Liverpool not knowing the words to…. It just doesn’t happen.

Fast-forward fifty years and The Beatles’ presence still ekes out of every corner of the city, echoing along the shoreline constantly (oh wait. That’s the Museum!). But Beatlemania still provides the soundtrack to the lives of many women and men who, in the 21st century, now find themselves as the guardian generation: Liverpool’s landlords and ladies, the parents and grandparents, the tour guides and buskers…

The Three Minute Theatre, Manchester

Show Review: Shake It Up Baby By Suzan Holder

Cast: Lynne Touil, Tony Charnock, Debbie O’Hare, Edd Bower

Dir: Gina T Frost

Writer: Suzan Holder

But in a uniquely relational way it’s the mothers, sisters and daughters who remember what it was all about.

A modern-day Liverpool cafe filled with the memories and choruses of its customers then, is not only a setting, but an overarching swell of feelings in which to create a play. Suzan Holder captures this very essence perfectly in ‘Shake It Up Baby!’, a tragicomedy about fifty-something Bev, who’s diving straight into online dating, meeting up (without a backup driver and escape alibi! I know, madness!) and quite rightly wants to find the man of her dreams. It would be easy for the younger theatre-goers to scoff at the idea, but the romantic risk is sensitively and heartbreakingly handled by Lynne Touil as Bev. Watching Touil as Bev makes it difficult to imagine anyone else to be her: Touil fulfils the role completely with her natural warmth and faultless Scouse accent.

“He was nice, normal!” she asides, and it’s a relief to hear this from Bev in our first act as she meets Scott, a polite suitor, played by the wonderful Tony Charnock. Against the clinking of crockery, the door bell tolling so delicately, the crackle of analogue and hot food: Scott is like a ray of light. Spit shine ready, Scott wears a suit and even buys the brews. He’s sheer; with rare chivalry following a disastrous montage of lonely hearts, played out fiendishly by the multitasking actors as they line up for each sweet coffee date.

Shake It Up Baby Play

But then the word ‘normal’ is never, ever quite so in theatre – local Echo writer Tanya (played by Debbie O’Hare) and PC Brown (played by Edd Bower), testify to that fact in the closing act. To say they are Bev’s incongruously vital links to the outside world might be giving it away a little, but they are assuredly the persistent members of the Liverpool community that Bev needs at the end, whether she likes it or not.

Shake It Up Baby teeters on the innocent line between courage and naivety and asks the often ignored questions from a single woman “of a certain age”. There’s a real longing and a mature sexuality that’s rarely* addressed – (*and if it is, it’s usually to take the mick in cheap, or satyr erotica) –  as kindly as it is by Holder. This in itself – on top of the gorgeous soundtrack and excellent performances – should be celebrated.

It would be great to see this play tour the UK with talent seen at the Three Minute Theatre, and perhaps for it to be just a little longer.

You can read more about Suzan and the preview over with the ILoveManchester team, here:

Official programme blurb from SHAKE IT UP BABY by Suzan Holder

“Bev has always loved the Beatles, but kissing a poster goodnight isn’t really an option when you’re a fifty-something mum of three. Tired of being alone, Bev ventures into the unknown world of internet dating. All she wants is a nice man who’ll share her passion for the Fab Four and be there to hold her hand along the way.

Is it really too much to hope for?

What she gets is a lot more than she bargained for. (Good job she’s got a good sense of humour, she’s going to need it!)

Shake It Up Baby explores life, love and lonely hearts in the suburbs of Liverpool and asks – is life better if you play safe? Or is it worth taking a risk?

Is Bev’s attempt to ‘shake things up’ brave or foolish? Will she end up with just what she deserves?”

Theatre + Play Crew

Gina T Frost: Producer and Director

“Thank you to Suzan for her extra pair of Director’s Eyes.”

John Topliff: Producer; Sound and Lighting Engineer

About Suzan Holder

Suzan is a writer, television and theatre producer and director.

She trained as a newspaper journalist before moving into TV working in news, current affairs, arts, music, lifestyle programmes and was a Series Producer of ITV daytime’s Loose Women (but don’t hold that against her!).

She has worked as a theatre producer for Bernard O’Carroll, creator and star of BBC TV comedy show Mrs Brown’s Boys.

She has her own drama company, Dramarama, and has taught theatre skills to youngsters aged 7 – 18 years and staged many musical theatre productions.

Suzan has written several original stage scripts and her work has been performed worldwide.

She currently has several projects in development and is mid-way through her first noel which she describes as “a rock ‘n’ roll fairytale”.

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