With No Surrender (15), Alan Bleasdale – who will forever be tagged ‘the writer of Boys from the Black Stuff’ – has written an acerbic comedy about sectarianism in 1980s Liverpool.
Michael Angelis plays Mike, the new manager of The Charleston, a run-down nightclub, outside which no car is safe for more than 30 minutes. On his first day he finds that he has inherited a disastrous New Year’s Eve party, attended by a couple of coachloads of rival OAPs: a Catholic social club (dressed for a non-existent fancy dress contest) and an Orange Lodge. They are only kept apart by a small party of physically decrepit and mentally disabled unfortunates.
If the crowd is a nightmare, so too are the acts on stage: a punk band who rile everyone with a song about impending death; a hopeless comedian and a hapless magician, whose star feature – his rabbit – is dead inside his hat.
On paper it sounds like a farce, but on screen it a bleak black comedy. The actors consistently do justice to the tightness of Bleasdale’s plot and script, particularly lynchpin Angelis. But credit also goes to veteran James ’Z-Cars’ Ellis, who throws his all into it; Bernard Hill, who pitches his part perfectly; Joanne Whalley, who plays the demure-yet-smouldering Cheryl – and it is easy to miss that the magician is played by a young Elvis Costello.
Ridiculing sectarianism by setting it in a nightclub is a stroke of genius. If you like your humour dark and with a point, this is one to consider.