Narvik @ Liverpool Playhouse

Review by Jennie Lee | 18 Sep 2015

A new play with songs by the award-winning Liverpool playwright and singer-songwriter Lizzie Nunnery, Narvik tells a compelling story of love and loss set against the backdrop of Norway in World War II and present-day Liverpool. Produced by the up-and-coming Manchester-based theatre company Box of Tricks, it seems particularly well suited to the intimate space of the Playhouse Studio.

It’s inspired by memories and family history, and draws partly upon the war-time experiences of Nunnery’s grandfather, who served with the Royal Navy to free the Norwegian port from the Nazis in 1940. The result is a moving and powerful piece exploring themes of guilt, regret and the impact of war upon the lives of ordinary people, each with their individual vulnerabilities.

The play opens with the character of Jim, a 90-year-old, who has suffered a fall in his Liverpool basement flat. He descends into a recounting of his past: he recalls his time as a young sailor; his brief love affair with Else, a school-teacher from Oslo, played alluringly by Nina Yndis; and his experiences as a radio operator with Kenny, his cynical friend in service, played by Lucas Smith. Jim Callaghan brilliantly plays both the younger and older Jim, navigating between the roles with ease.

What is perhaps most hypnotic about Narvik, apart from Nunnery’s poetic story-telling, is the music, which is haunting and atmospheric. Nunnery herself performs with her regular collaborators and fellow musicians, Vidar Norheim and Martin Heslop, to become a modern-day Greek chorus. The musical interludes and songs, which include a mixture of ballads and sea-shanties, echo, reflect and comment on the unfolding scenes, drawing the audience in with their siren melodies.

Until 19 Sep