Warnock Review – Hope Street Theatre, Liverpool

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This is our theatre review of Warnock at Liverpool‘s Hope Street Theatre.

Synopsis Of Warnock

City Theatre presents Warnock, a play set in a youth detention centre for girls. This production shows the trials and tribulations of inmates and people living rough on the streets. For the girls inside Warnock detention centre, Mr Colin Abbott wanders the corridors with evil intentions. Meanwhile, Governor Sarah Davis and Officer Mr Hughes try to be firm but fair, but the girls don’t make this easy. Of all the people we meet in the play, they all have one mission: to survive through the hardships life throws at them. Directed by Becky Moreland with Leo Hewitson. Starring Shannon Griffiths, Johnny Sedgewick-Davis, Joe Gordon, Louis Cashin-Harris, Gemma Harrison, Alan McDonald, Sam Jones, Jessica Dagley, Anna Chan, Jessica Armstrong, Leah Rutherford, Molly Riley, Lucy Walters, Abi Tyler and Joe Gordon.

Analysis Of Warnock

As audience members made their way into the theatre for opening night, the cast was stationed around the auditorium. Right up until the show started, they interacted with each other and the crowd, working on their improvisation in character. This was effective in getting audience members interested in the show until the girls seemed to run out of things to say. For example, when every audience member came in, they complained about how late they were and if anyone went to sit on the front row, someone would comment ‘you’re brave sitting on the front row’.

I was hoping for some audience interaction throughout the performance because of this repeated comment, but unfortunately, the fourth wall was rarely broken throughout the play. Once the play began, it took some time for the actors to relax into their characters. However, once they became more comfortable, their performance skills improved and we were given a wonderful performance. Leah Rutherford was particularly impressive with her performance of Laura Riley. There is depth to her performance and even though her character has a rough exterior, Leah ensures she shows the softer sides of her personality.


Unfortunately, these wonderful acting moments were ruined by the sound of staging moving in between scenes. There was no background music to cover the noise, which meant that every chair scrape could be heard, breaking the illusion. There was also confusion about how sound was used within the show as a whole. For instance, in a particularly moving scene in Act 2 between the Governor and Mr Hughes, we suddenly heard soft and powerful music playing after having no background sound for any scene beforehand. This was sharply cut off as the lights went down and there was silence moving into the next scene, leaving audiences unsure about what to think. If the sound design was implemented in a smoother fashion rather than just in a couple of scenes in the latter half of the play, it would certainly amplify the production of the show.


There were also no content warnings for this production which is greatly required. There is plenty of explicit language within the performance, especially from the girls within the detention centre. Though some people may expect this after hearing where the play takes place, there should still be ample warning for members of the public. To extend on this point, there is a scene in Act 2 that is heavily centred on sexual assault (SA). Though there is mention of a male character’s ‘evil intentions towards the girls’, there is no notice of a sexual assault scene in the play. Especially for audience members with a history of SA, this can be incredibly traumatising.

The overall performance in Act 2 was majorly improved from Act 1. The actors relaxed into their roles and allowed themselves to be vulnerable on stage. This was particularly evident in Sasha’s last scene with The Governor. Both actors put their all into their performance, which had many audience members in tears.

Summary Of Warnock

In closing, this was a wonderful piece showcasing the different circumstances of different people in youth detention centres. The actors found their ground after the interval and gave some emotional performances. Unfortunately, the sound design and movement of staging let down the performance, not to mention the lack of content warnings that could become a serious issue for patrons. If you see Warnock, you can enjoy theatre from some of the new and upcoming talents Liverpool has to offer. However, please take great note of the explicit language and SA content before you attend.

Overall Rating: 7.5/10 – Good