THERE is a scene in this non-musical production where Michael Starke's character is making a pan of Scouse.

He throws in far too many exotic, unnecessary ingredients that will only detract from the home-grown dish we all know and love.

There is a parallel here.

Happily, I had just enjoyed a good old fashioned pre-show bowl of in-house Scouse.

But the play itself serves up a dramatic dish that doesn't seem to know what it is.

My Fairfield Lady is very loosely based on Pygmalion.

Here, the premise is a posh girl learns how to become a Scouser.

This has all the possibilities of becoming a fully-blown Royal Court, laugh-a-minute show.

But, like its striking poster shows, it is more a play with a split personality.

The accent is fifty per cent comedy and fifty per cent tragedy and that makes for uneasy bed fellows.

The humour uses plenty of Liverpool name checks and stock phrases.

There is plenty of scope for belly laughs galore but, like a roller-coaster, it has highs and lows in equal measure.

Olivia du Monceau's set design is impressive - almost clinical - like a multi-coloured moving Rubik Cube turning Lizzy's Liverpool 1 florist shop into a hospital ward and even a cemetery.

There is also a back projection screen showing Liverpool locations.

Director Chris Mellor and writer Kevin Fearon have worked together from the outset and clearly the initial concept has changed radically from the original premise.

Kevin says in the programme notes that it is a risk when you offer new writing.

In that respect they should be commended for looking at a subject as sensitive as dementia.

Indeed the play coincides with the publication of a new book chronicling the Royal Court's success story aptly called A Brave Venture.

This show certainly breaks out from the established formula.

The cast comprises some of the Court's popular regulars: Michael Starke (dad - Alf McDermott); Danny O'Brien - son Higson); Jessica Dyas (the Hoylake heroine Lizzie Ripon) and Helen Carter as brash Scouser Steph.

They are joined by two new faces: Julie Glover as sick mum Mary and Matthew Walker in multi-roles.

Music is threaded over scene changes from the accomplished composer Patrick Dineen.

My Fairfield Lady is a departure from the Royal Court's menu of all-out comedy shows.

Laughter and tears make this an emotional journey where the former is over-shadowed by the latter.

Tragi-comedy - three stars

The show is on until May 25

Tickets from 0151 709 4321