It is a curiously invigorating thing to watch new and talented artists try something out. I Am Steven Gerrard is a chance to do just that.
It is even better to watch a new actor – a sporting metaphor seems appropriate here – knock it out of the park. At just 19, Joe Cowin holds the stage in this one-man play with a presence and charisma befitting a far more experienced performer. He plays Shane, a young Merseyside man grappling with his identity and his turbulent relationship with a father who cannot accept his lack of interest in football, and specifically his lack of love for LFC legend Steven Gerrard. In doing so, Cowin makes the audience laugh, think and if not cry then certainly supress a lump in its collective throat.
By rights, this sold-out run at Liverpool’s compact Hope Street Theatre should be his launch pad to bigger things. Watch out too for Sean McLoughlin, another young local and recent alumnus of the Everyman Theatre’s YEP Writers programme, whose own experience of being a fish out of water growing up in Liverpool minus the football bug informed his debut script. This authenticity comes through in Shane’s recollections of teenage years that will feel painfully true to anyone who has struggled with conforming to prevailing gender roles – or indeed has resorted to using Geordie Shore as a manual for social survival as a ‘lad’.
There are things that could be improved. The ending is a little trite and large sections of Shane’s monologue are in rhyme; a brave move that works well in places but in others stilts the realism of Cowin’s otherwise compelling performance and, on balance, detracts more than it adds. But McLoughlin is trying something out. As are a small but inventive creative team who, with absolutely minimal budget, have created a slick and imaginative production including clever use of audio and projected imagery that brings Shane’s story to life and keeps the show rattling along.
I Am Steven Gerrard is not perfect. There are things that could be changed, raw edges that could be rubbed smooth. The title itself nearly put me off attending, and I was a Stevie G fan. But I look forward to seeing what the team at Tip Tray Theatre do next and hope, despite the above, that at least some of those raw edges stay put.
Main image by Andrew AB Photography