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For She's An Honorary Fellow

Published on 22 November 2017

Top Dogs at Liverpool’s Royal Court Kevin Fearon and Gillian Miller are donning LJMU’s finest robes this week for the University’s highest honour: an honorary fellowship.

The ceremony takes place this Friday (24th) and you’ll be able to watch the ceremony here (if you’re that bothered).

Our theatre works closely with LJMU to provide students free tickets to see our shows so we’ve always had a connection to the Uni.  That, and the Vice Chancellor currently sits on our Trustee Board. 

We sat down with Kev and Gill to find out what it’s like to work at the greatest theatre in the world.  They spoke of paper coca-cola mugs from the eighties, Elvis Costello and the Community Choir.

undefinedKevin and Gillian

So how did you both stumble upon the Royal Court Theatre?

Gill: I first came across the Royal Court theatre when I used to come here to see lots and lots of bands here in the eighties.  At that time you would watch the band for 10-15 minutes and then go downstairs to the Queen Mary Bar and all the drinks were served in huge great big Coke mugs.  Doesn’t matter what your drink was, it got poured into one of these great big paper coke mugs. 

Kev: I first came here in 1965. I remember the date because it was a panto, it was Peter Pan. When I got back home my younger brother was born so I remember the date.  Then my dad worked here in the sixties, seventies so I was aware of the theatre, then my two brothers came to work here with my dad when they filmed ‘Chariots of Fire’.  A longer scene from The Mikado was shot here.  I was always aware of it in the family and then I came here in 2005 with Rawhide Comedy Club.

What was your first thought when you walked into the theatre?

Kev: I think once we first got the building and then walked in..

Gill: It was coooold, really cold.

Kev: And sticky. It was freezing and sticky. The floor everywhere was sticky through beer and cigarette ash.

But this building, the shape of it and the history of it, there was a real sense of excitement even though it was scruffy.  A lot of the Art Deco features were still here so you could see the glory that had been there and you hoped that it would have a great future.  It was exciting walking through the doors that first day.

Gill: I suppose the size of it, it’s an enormous building really. It’s great standing in the auditorium though, just thinking about all the fabulous things that have taken place there.  Looking after the history of it is really a privilege to be able to do.

What’s been your highlight so far?

Kev: Big question because any show can be a highlight at any time.  The first Brick Up (Mersey Tunnel) we did back in 2006.  The success of that which nobody had seen success like that for a show in Liverpool.  That was amazing.  Buying a new laptop every day for a week, just because we couldn’t deal with the customers who wanted to buy tickets. That was a great highlight, going to Curry’s every day “another laptop please” and that was the show that proved to us and a lot of other people that theatre could work here.  That was the highlight, Brick Up, that weekend when audience word of mouth really sold the show, not the reviews.  Just the audience going away saying “what a great night”.  The theatre was still scruffy then but the excitement of that theatre piece got to the audience made us what we are today.

Gill: my highlight was definitely 2011 when we got word that our heritage lottery bid was successful, because until then we had all these plans to renovate the theatre but, nobody actually believed that we’d ever do it.  That was huge for us because it suddenly meant that somebody believed in us after all those years of talk.  It was the catalyst really that started the whole renovation of the theatre. 

Kev: *speaks to camera* Can you hear the choir? I don’t know if you can hear that singing.  That’s our Community Choir rehearsing because we’ve got 13 or 14 of them in this year’s Christmas show. 

What are your long term ambitions for the theatre?

Kev: We’ve just become an NPO. Next April we start getting Arts Council funding and it’s the lowest level. It’s more of a gesture, a welcoming of us into a group of people who are funded to provide culture.  I guess that’s the first step.  We would like to prove that we deserve that money and that we would spend more money wisely as well.  I think to become more of a partner with the Arts Council and to Liverpool City Council.  To provide what we’ve done so far, better and also to be able to take some more chances.  The way we are funded or not funded means every show is a risk to the building.  Makes it exciting to be here but I’d like to be able to take away some of that risk so we can get on with running the theatre in this city really well.

Gill: I would like to finish the building off. Would like to be able to build another floor or two floors on top of the former Penny Farthing, now the Courtyard.  Join it onto the theatre and make more backstage facilities, have a studio space for the Youth Theatre and Community Choir.  It would finish the building off. 

What’s been your favourite production here?

Kev: I really enjoyed Golden Oldies, which is not written by Liverpool playwrights, it’s written by Dave Simpson.  It’s a story of a choir that’s singing and then a rock star comes in and gets them be a band.  It used our Community Choir and has some great songs, great characters in the script and our our Choir.  From an audience point of view it was great to watch and it had moments of laughter and sadness but also for what it did to our Choir.  The story is about all these people whose lives are changed by this guy walking into their choir and actually that show changed the lives of our choir.  It was fiction becoming truth and that was amazing to see the change it had for our choir.

Gill: Same here, Golden Oldies definitely was a huge favourite of mine along with Misery which we did ages ago with Andrew Schofield and Joan Kempson.  Not a comedy obviously, although great moments of comedy within it. For me it was my favourite play that I’ve seen Andrew Schofield in. 

Another highlight for me or a great moment was Elvis Costello did a book launch here and performed some song on stage just last year. Elvis Costello on stage with a guitar and a fairly full audience but a very personal type show, which was fantastic.

If both of you could star in any production here at the Royal Court, what would you star in and why?

Kev: I think I’d quite like to be in Golden Oldies.  It looked such fun to be in and the Choir did love being in it. I nearly joined the choir. Also we’re hoping to bring it back so that’s something that could potentially happen. 

Gill: Well I thought I could be in the Christmas show as part of the choir if one of them had to drop out. 

Kev laughs hysterically.

via GIPHY 

Congratulations Kev and Gill, you deserve it. 

Kev and Gill will be receiving their honorary fellowships at LJMU’s graduation ceremony in the Anglican Cathedral on Friday 24th November.

Interested in the heritage of the building? Find out more about our archive here