97+ @ Liverpool Olympia Theatre Review

97+ has been Tom Cain’s debut into the world of being a playwright and director. The talented young creative has worked closely with the Hillsborough Survivors Support Alliance to ensure he has told their truth as well as helping to raise money for there ongoing legal battles. As they still continue to fight for their justice. The story is filled with raw unfiltered emotion, yet still manages to balance such sadness with humor. Now with that being said let’s take a closer look at 97+…

Details of 97+

Location: The Olympia Theatre, Liverpool

Date: 12th April 2024

Time: 19:30

Running Time: 150 Minutes (Including Interval)

Performers: Leslie Longley, Colin Killbride, Lynne Fitzgerald, Alice McKellop, Claudia Molyneaux, and Graham Padden.

Production Company: Tom Cain Theatre & Bill Elms Productions

Writer & Director: Tom Cain


Image Source: Tom Cain Theatre

The story of 97+ follows the aftermath of the tragic Hillsborough incident in 1989. Working in a close partnership with the Hillsborough Survivors Support Alliance to create a beautifully sad, but realistic depiction of survivors’. Whilst showing the wonderful community spirit of Liverpool. As any true scouser knows “you’ll never walk alone”, Tom brilliantly shows this in his play. Having the main cast overcome numerous struggles, including censorship and a lot worse, purely just because they banded together. It even gives hope that every Liverpudlian will finally have the justice they deserve for the gross treatment they received from the police and that God awful paper!

Analysis of 97+

The Cast

Image Source: Tom Cain Theatre

Alice once again was phenomenal. Again stealing the 1st scene with her and Steve (Leslie). Expanding the play and adding scenes to the full theatrical version, Tom noticed his chance and gave Alice a second role. In this new role of Charlotte she had even more room to spread her wings and soar. Bringing subtle but distinct differences between the roles.

Leslie and Colin both gave the performance of a lifetime. It’s easily forgettable that this isn’t a retelling of their own personal accounts. As the pair bring such raw emotion to the roles. Colin in particular breaks the fourth wall a lot when going into the big emotional dialogue. Thundering home Tom’s aim of education people about the truth of Hillsborough and the undeserved fallout that LFC fans had to face for the past 30+ years.

New Additions

The best of the new additions has to be the newly added couple Lynn (Sally) and Graham (Stuart). Although I found Sally’s performance irritating at first I found myself warming to her when she opened up to Steve and the hard hitting reality of setting up an extra plate stays as one of the most memorable scenes. Unfortunately, the replacement for Liv failed to live up to the hefty shadow left by the previous performer. Claudia is a more believable southerner yet just doesn’t hit the same level of nuance as the previous Liv. I just found that she overplayed emotions at times and it took me out of the story slightly. Making me very aware I was indeed watching a play. The woman to my right even took to laughter at what should have been two of the saddest moments. However, she did still give a standing ovation!


Image Source: Tom Cain Theatre

I have had the luxury of watching 97+ blossom into what it has become. Watching the debut performance at LTF I soon fell in love with the powerful story. Initially, interested just because I had acted with the director in a very lackluster student film. I was blown away by how much that first performance impacted me. I had lived in Liverpool for 3 years, studying film and TV production and Tom had finally gave me my first lesson in the history of the beautiful city.

In the full theatrical performance Tom cleverly nods to his and the plays beginnings, by having Charlotte don a Edge Hill University jumper. The University he attended and where he first worked on 97+ submitting it as his dissertation, gaining a first overall and for his dissertation. Seeing his dissertation’s subject matter shared on his Facebook, it motivated me to do my dissertation on something I cared deeply about. Inclusion in Star Wars. When I first saw the advertising for the play on Facebook I was determined to actually see it.

Writer /Co-Producer/Director

Tom Cain has been taking the medium by storm. The aspiring playwright regularly works with kids putting on several performances. Showing just how much Tom loves giving to his community. It explains how 97+ manages to be so poetically emotional. As Tom has truly become a big part of it, and as such can write stories that truly relate how the people feel. Where as many directors may have other people changing the set, etc. Tom is very hands on. Throughout the intermission you could see him make his way from the station at the back to the stage. Where he was one of two readying the stage. All with a massive smile on his face as he still took the occasional opportunity to gaze at all the people that had gathered to his story. He is surely one to watch and I for one I’m excited what I truly believe to be this generation’s Shakespeare has in store.

Impact on the Community

You can see how much this play means to the Liverpudlians. I took my soon to be scouse step dad and fiancé to the debut performance. Both of them, being from Liverpool, felt liberated that someone had finally told the right story. The real truth. Coming back from the play the whole train carriage erupted in discussion about it. I was proud to say I’d been reviewing it from the start. One person even thanked me for “helping to spread the word”, and a tear came down my face.

I’m so grateful that someone would think I have done anything in regards to 97+. But All the credit goes to Tom, the amazingly talented crew, the brave members of the Hillsborough Survivors Association for sharing their stories with Tom and the rest of us, and their brave determination to see justice for their whole city but most importantly for the 97+, and of course the whole of Liverpool for continuing to stay strong in the face of adversity. Hopefully you will soon be able to finally get the justice you all truly deserve.


97+ is the most emotionally powerful play I have ever watched. The sense of a strong community runs throughout the story and the characters deliver more than one much needed comedic break from the emotional story. Tom’s true achievement is how he has managed to take one of the most tragic days in British history and turned it into something beautiful. Something that Hillsborough survivors can be proud of. As someone has finally listened to them and afterwards was determined to tell their story. To finally inform the country to the real “truth”. 97+ ,in this full performance, has blown past United 63 as the best sports story ever told. Even topping recently released Next Goal Wins.

If your a fan of the beautiful game, British history, or Liverpool YOU need to watch 97+.

Overall Rating: 10 – Perfect!

Latest Articles