Boys From The Blackstuff Review – Royal Court Theatre, Liverpool

Boys From The Blackstuff
Image Source: Jason Roberts

Show: Alan Bleasdale’s Boys From The Blackstuff
Venue: Royal Court Theatre, Liverpool
Format: Play
Genre: Drama
Written By: James Graham
Directed By: Kate Wasserberg
Date: Thursday 25 April 2024
Age Rating: 10+

This is our theatre review of Boys From The Blackstuff at Liverpool’s Royal Court Theatre!

Synopsis Of Boys From The Blackstuff

We begin with a dismal, dark backdrop of 1982. Film clips and the docks and riots in Liverpool air, along with Margaret Thatcher. We dramatically see a man falling from a rope to the sound of broken glass. Then, at the DUP, we meet five central characters all looking to sign on. They are George Malone, Chrissie Todd, Yosser Hughes, Loggo, and Dixie Dean. Yosser’s famous line “Gizza job” is a recurring theme in most of his scenes.

We learn about the ambitions of those working at the DUP: Mr Moss and Miss Sutcliffe. Furthermore, we learn that most of those claiming benefits are working cash-in-hand, except Dixie. Along the way, we discover the trials and tribulations of each of them. Some find success initially by getting work, only to suffer the pitfalls of the roles. Others, meanwhile, seem to encounter trouble at every corner, which only worsens their plight. As the story progresses, we learn just how tough it was to survive, never mind thrive, during these tough times.

Analysis Of Boys From The Blackstuff

Firstly, I want to give a mention to the Royal Court Theatre. The staff are so friendly, welcoming and efficient. Also if you are taking advantage of the pre-theatre menu, you won’t be disappointed. The food and service are impressive and offer great value.

Onto the show. The play opens with clever lighting, depicting the characters introducing themselves – to officials in the dole office. Boys from the Blackstuff first appeared on TV in 1982 about a gang of roadworkers, previously employed as tarmac layers. The play was quite shocking and an eye opener for a lot of people on life ‘Up North’ during the early 80s – and society today faces very similar issues.


The familiar characters, Chrissie, George, Dixie, Loggo, Yozzer and even ‘Shakehands’ return in this stage version of Alan Bleasdale’s play that premiered at the Royal Court last Autumn to critical acclaim. It now returns to Liverpool before transferring to National Theatre and the West End. This stage version has been adapted by playwright James Graham. Kate Wassenberg directs and the dark and atmospheric lighting and dockland scenery provides a perfect backdrop.

We are reminded of the cat and mouse games of ‘sniffers’ from the Employment Exchange as officials try and catch people out who are doing a bit of cash in hand work alongside signing on. There are some humorous scenes where Angie (Lauren O’Neill) hides in the hallway. The very talented and accomplished cast; Mark Womack, Jamie Peacock, Philip Whitchurch just to name a few, guide us through a variety of emotions. Laughter, frustration and sadness as they respond to changes in their lives.


Bernard Hill as Yozzer Hughes was a key character in the TV series and Yozzer is central again, this time played by Barry Sloane. The depiction of a man, desperate for a chance to prove himself whilst suffering with mental health problems. I was slightly disappointed that the play wasn’t as hard-hitting as the TV series and although some of the scenes were faithfully reproduced, others were omitted. There was less mention of how right-wing economics had managed to decimate working-class pride. However, it’s a great show and, unfortunately, society today is experiencing very similar issues to those of the early 80s.

Summary Of Boys From The Blackstuff

Boys from the Blackstuff runs until 11th May at Liverpool’s Royal Court Theatre. Do go and see the show, the acting is superb and a reminder that the 80s wasn’t all legwarmers and ra-ra skirts.

Overall Rating: 8.5/10 – Excellent