Joe McGann on the bill at Liverpool Theatre Festival

Leading Liverpool actor Joe McGann will be among the writers and performers taking part in the 2023 Liverpool Theatre Festival with tickets for six shows now on sale. Tony McDonough reports

Liverpool Theatre Festival
Alex Norton, left, and Joe McGann will perform Sober Companion at Liverpool Theatre Festival. Picture by David Munn


This summer sees the return of the Liverpool Theatre Festival (LTF) with tickets for the first six shows now on sale.

Leading Liverpool-born actor Joe McGann will be one of the writers and performers at the festival, which takes place from Thursday, July 20, to Sunday, July 30. Fringe event Liverpool Theatre Festival Of New Works will follow in the autumn.

Both events will once again take place at St Luke’s Bombed Out Church in Liverpool city centre. The main festival has been timed this year so as not to clash with Eurovision in May. There will be both daytime and evening shows.

Little LTF will run from Tuesday, October 3, to Sunday, October 8. Performances will be staged within the more intimate marquee at St Luke’s.

Last year the festival saw its biggest and most diverse programme to date. It featured variety and cabaret, comedy, opera, drama, musicals, family shows, and drag acts. This year will see two new commissions.

One is Sober Companion, a new play written and starring Joe McGann and Jake Norton. The second is new children’s show Fred The Musical, which is based on the book about a fire-sneezing dragon by Fay Evans.

Sober Companion explores the “funny, raw, and sometimes dark” places of fame, addiction, and recovery. Dan (played by Jake Norton) is a high-flying prime time television presenter.

He also has a bad habit which he denies, but it’s not hidden as well as he thinks. People close to him are concerned. Gerard (played by Joe McGann) has seen it all before. The play will run for two performances on Saturday, July 22, at 3.30pm and 7.30pm.

Fred The Musical is an interactive stage show for children aged eight and under, based on the best-selling rhyming picture book Fred The Fire-Sneezing Dragon by Fay Evans.

A lonely young dragon, Fred’s fiery sneezes cause chaos at school. He is teased by his human classmates, until he accidentally saves the day. The pupils eventually learn to accept and celebrate Fred in this heartwarming tale.

Aimed at toddlers and primary schoolchildren, the show is full of life and laughter and packed with pantomime-inspired interaction.

Writer Fay Evans and producer Bill Elms have collaborated to bring the book to stage as a musical. The show is on Sunday, July 23, at 11.30am and 1.30pm.

LTF 2023 will open with a night of opera, Viva Tenori – A Celebration Of The Three Tenors – brought to the stage by Absolute Opera in association with Forever Tenors on Thursday, July 20at 7.30pm.

On Friday, July 21, at 7.30pm, there will be a show to appeal to Evertonians – Whatever Happened To Billy Kenny written by Liverpool playwright Ian Salmon.

This one-man show is built on Billy’s own words and written with his blessing. It stars Liverpool actor Jay Johnson.

After proving to be such a hit with LTF audiences in 2021, Perfectly Frank returns to the LTF stage on Sunday, July 23, at 7pm. Liverpool’s own David Knopov keeps the swing of Sinatra alive throughout this show.


Liverpool Theatre Festiva
Liverpool Theatre Festival will return to St Lukes in July. Picture by David Munn
Perfectly Frank
Perfectly Frank returns to Liverpool Theatre Festival in July. Picture by Rüdiger Knuth
Bill Elms
Theatre director and producer and organiser of Liverpool Theatre Festival Bill Elms. Picture by Tom Kinton


Ahead of a run at the Edinburgh Fringe, Magic Gareth: Level Up will be at LTF on Wednesday, July 26, at 1.30pm. Following on from the success of Magic Gareth’s Magic Eye show at last year’s Fringe, the magician is bringing a new production to Liverpool.

Liverpool Theatre Festival was created by Liverpool theatre producer Bill Elms, who has worked in the theatre industry for more than 30 years. It was started after indoor venues were forced to close down during the pandemic.

Bill said: “Liverpool Theatre Festival was created out of a need to provide a lifeline and support for the creative arts industry during challenging times.

“We’re delighted that ethos has continued and developed into showcasing emerging talent and unearthing the gems we have in our sector.

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“This accessible platform is invaluable to empower new writers and performers, while making a return to live entertainment. We encourage audiences to experience the shows first-hand.”

This year’s festival partners are Edge Hill University, Morecrofts Solicitors, Bill Elms Associates and Ticket Quarter.

The project is part-funded by the UK Government through the UK Shared Prosperity Fund with the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority as the lead authority. Along with Liverpool City Council and Culture Liverpool.

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