Pros: A totally brilliant performance from Chris Sheridan. Couldn’t fault a thing. Seriously inventive use of the tiny space with cleverly used props and wardrobe pieces.
Cons: The theatre is above a pub and as it was a Saturday night they had the music pumping loud so it was audible throughout the performance.
The only one (wo)man shows I’ve seen in the past have been stand-up comedians, but this play was very different to those There were lots of laughs but Odd Shaped Balls is a properly substantial play with real characters, warmth and depth. It explores the issue facing many young gay sports stars today: whether to come out, and risk ending their careers, or live a lie and face the constant risk of exposure.
This is obviously a pretty topical issue at the moment with a string of high-profile sports people, including Tom Daley, coming out in the past year or so. This play is really thought provoking and gives the audience a genuine insight into the agonising decision about whether to come out and risk everything you’ve worked for since childhood and the enormity of what you could stand to lose.
Chris Sheridan stars as closeted gay rugby player James Hall, but he also plays all of the other characters in the play (this is not a monologue) including his Dad, gay lover, girlfriend, best friend and manager. Every character was played with warmth and humour with different voices, accents and mannerisms. Even when there was no costume change there was no doubt about who he was supposed to be and what relationship each character had with each other.
The dialogue was witty and fast-paced. At times funny and at others it was tense but it was all delivered with an explosive energy and pinpoint accuracy that was maintained throughout the entire hour-long performance. The audience was utterly captivated throughout. Even the slightly distracting strains of Lady Gaga coming through the floor from the pub below and the sweltering heat of the little theatre didn’t break anyone’s concentration.
The sets were simple and unfussy but effective and made innovative use of the little space. A table, barstool and a pint represented the pub, a swivel office chair was the manager’s office, a strip of astro-turf and a ruby-ball was the pitch whilst the changing rooms was a bench, and a freestanding wall with three clothes hooks on.
Costumes were just three different tops, which were hung on the hooks in the changing room. A rugby shirt, a jacket and tie and a casual top. We watched James Hall change into and out of them as he goes into the different worlds he inhabits. As he puts on a different top, so he puts on a different persona that he must play in that situation.
Lighting was simple spots but worked really well taking the audience’s attention to whichever part of the stage was being utilised and taking your attention away from the rest.
My girlfriend and I came out of the show in silence obviously both still lost in the play (and it takes a lot to stun me into silence). Once we’d had time to mull it over we spent the rest of our journey discussing what rating we thought the play deserved. Between us we couldn’t think of anything that the writer Richard D Sheridan, director Charlotte Chinn or that Chris Sheridan could have done better so decided it had to be five stars.
Sadly we went on the last night the play was running at the Etcetera Theatre but if the play comes back to London again I would thoroughly recommend it. Funny, uplifting, thought-provoking and clever. A great Saturday night out!
Author: Richard D Sheridan
Director: Charlotte Chinn
Performed by: Chris Sheridan
Producer: Miller Theatre Productions
Booking information: Show has ended