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Edinburgh Fringe 2023

Low Down

Liverpudlian John wakes in the middle of the night with terrors. His wife Liz, a southerner, tries to comfort him without being totally aware of why he should still be so affected by Hillsborough so long after it happened. In their shop John meets Steve, who, like John, was at Hillsborough, though his experience was different. Like John, Steve has suffered for years and in a period of a short few days their lives are thrown together. Unlike John, however Steve finds everything all too much, takes desperate measures and nearly manages to add to the death toll that Hillsborough has already delivered.


It’s a name that strikes an emotional response amongst any football fan. Hillsborough. I was a Liverpool fan during the eighties because Stevie Nicol had been transferred from my club, Ayr United, to Liverpool. There were plenty of Scots who played for Liverpool, by that time and our interest in the fortunes of the Reds was heightened, the more success continued. One of those was Sir Kenny Dalglish. A spectator at Ibrox, a player at Heysel, he became the manager at Hillsborough. I would always scan the papers to see how Liverpool were doing.

I didn’t need to scan the papers that day. The tragedy unfolded in front of our televisual eyes. It is indelibly scorched into our psyche. But I was not there. I did not suffer the humiliation of newspaper headlines and the corruption of authorities lying through their teeth.

The fact is that Hillsborough is already dramatic. What is admirable here is that the effects of that day, on the minds and mental health of those who were there and those who supported them is the focus. It is not what happened but the effects of it that make this a drama worth watching.

The script does suffer a little from drawing the characters in rather than allowing them to emerge. Oftentimes it is the detail within a character that needs to be described by others or shown in conversation – like Liz being a southerner. We could have done with that being a little more upfront at the beginning as it was an accent which was difficult to place when Scouse was what your ear was searching for. She also ends up in tears after John takes things out on her. That needed resolution. Her story is as valid here.

The scene in the shop with Steve could also have been done with a little more to it so that Steve’s character was more to the fore and less of his trauma – the character needs to be more than the trauma to make us have sympathy. It just needed a little more colour to the piece.

It was similar with the direction. At times it was a little too obvious what was going to happen and some thought to how you could have creatively worked some of the ideas in rather than playing it straight would have helped – especially with Steve’s attempted suicide and descent into drinking heavily. Perhaps sitting his bedsit above the shop on stage – not in real life – would have made it feel like it haunted the proceedings or that it was the spectre they all feared.

The performances were very worthy, and all three actors did themselves really proud by carrying the stories. Interaction between them, at times was a little strained – like they were searching for cues and lines – but overall, it was pitched between them like it was authentic – especially Liz’s well-versed roll of the eyes and scathing looks. The purpose of this was never, however, to win artistic awards. It was to keep the effects of that day fresh in our minds and raise awareness and funds for the cause. To that end this was not just a job well done, but a job very much needed and exceptionally well done.