97+ Review – Bombed Out Church, Liverpool

Image Source: Liverpool Theatre Festival

This is our review for 97+ at Liverpool’s Bombed Out Church. So, let’s take a look at 97+.

Description Of 97+

This show takes place in September 2012. It’s more than 23 years on from the Hillsborough disaster of 1989. To date, 97 people have died as a result of what happened that day. But this show highlights how the number of those suffering from its aftereffects is a far larger number. In particular, we meet two Liverpool fans from the day: John (Colin Kilbride) and Steve (Leslie Longley). Both still struggle to comprehend the day’s events. This is partly because of the cover-up that immorally attempted to blame Liverpool fans for the disaster. We follow John and Steve during this period, though their lives are in totally different places. So, John is happily married to Liz (Julie McCabe), though he often has to correct her about the reality of Hillsborough. As for Steve, he feels he has lost everything as a result of the events of April 15 1989.

After a chance meeting, John develops a friendship with Steve and looks out for him during particularly low moments. We move to September 12 2012 and The Report Of The Hillsborough Independent Panel. I remember this date myself very well, as this report concluded that LIVERPOOL FANS DID NOT CAUSE THE DISASTER. Both John and Steve are delighted at what was a milestone in the journey for justice for the Hillsborough families. However, as the show demonstrates, this wouldn’t be the end of the battle for the truth; the REAL truth. Further setbacks would, unfortunately, lead Steve to spiral out of control, almost fatally so. But thankfully, John and Liz are there to save him. As is Nancy (Alice McKillop), a nurse who Steve develops a challenging-yet-honest bond with. As the show ends, there’s hope for the future, not only in the battle for justice but in Steve’s life.

Analysis Of 97+

Honestly, this is the hardest theatre review I’ve ever had to write. That’s because there is so much I could say about the horrific disaster. But due to its nature, I will keep my comments about the incident to this. Namely, I agree with every word in this show about the tragedy, its impact and the cover-up. And I simply hope that somehow, someday, justice finally does come in true form one day.

As for the show itself, how can I describe it? Moving. Emotional. Heartbreaking. Frightening. I could go on and on. The script comes from Tom Cain, who wrote the show as part of his dissertation at Edge Hill University. And he has done an unbelievable job at putting together the most authentic show imaginable. This is as accurate a study of depression and PTSD as anybody could ever compose. That’s because it goes to very dark mental places on numerous occasions, yet it’s entirely necessary. People have to understand the reality of how Hillsborough affected so many. And this show does an amazing job of achieving that goal. It’s actually also incredibly insightful for anyone that doesn’t truly understand depression, regardless of the original cause.

I must also point out that everybody’s acting performance is of an impeccable standard. But I must reserve a special mention for Leslie Longley as Steve. Just thinking of his acting is almost enough to draw a tear. It’s honestly very hard for me to offer a further description because the show is so raw. And his performance is so utterly authentic that it’s easy to forget he was acting. That’s as high a compliment as I could possibly make. The complete standing ovation at the end sums things up further.

Summary Of 97+

Well, first of all, this is an absolute 10/10 show on any level. But normally when I assign that score, I advise all theatregoers to see it when it returns. That remains the case here. But this isn’t just the case for theatregoers. All football fans regardless of club allegiance should see this show. In fact, anyone who misunderstands the full impact of this one football match should see this. Plus, it should be seen by students in secondary schools and sixth form colleges to offer a real education. And finally, it should be seen by anyone in this country that somehow still doesn’t understand the reality of Hillsborough.

Honestly, I’d even go as far as to say this should be placed online and promoted by the club. That way, even more people can see it. I’d go as far as to say that I hope that this ends up as a television drama in the future. Though we the fans know what really happened, it seems that some still don’t. And while the battle for justice goes on, the quest for providing full education of Hillsborough should run simultaneously. Basically, I’m saying that everybody in this country above the age of 15 should see this for various reasons. It’s possibly the most powerful theatre show I’ve ever seen. So when it comes to a venue near you, no matter where you are, please, PLEASE, go and see this.

Overall Rating: 10/10 – Perfect