Pros: All cast members offer solid performances individually and collaboratively.
Cons: A lot of the heartfelt moments are lost as comedy takes centre stage.
Twenty years after it premiered at the Royal Court, Simon Block’s Not a Game for Boys is currently being performed at the King’s Head Theatre. Starring Bobby Davro, Alan Drake and Oliver Joel and directed by Jason Lawson, Not a Game for Boys tells the story of three London taxi drivers who once a week seek to escape their everyday problems playing in a local table-tennis league. The action takes place in one evening, when the team have a big match to win. Lose this one and they face relegation and the embarrassment of Division 2.
Eric is Team Captain of the table-tennis team which includes Oscar and Tony, and although for Eric this game means everything, the other two players have a lot weighing on their minds. For Tony, his relationship is in tatters following his girlfriend’s discovery of his affair and Oscar is distracted by the death of fellow player Fat Derek as he becomes increasingly scared of his single life and ending up alone. For Oscar, his weekly matches are no longer fun as Eric is constantly pressuring the team to remain in the Premiership league. For Eric however the game really is about escapism as he constantly gets phone calls from his wife Elaine who is struggling to take care of his ill mother while he is at the club. And while he snaps and shouts at her, there are moments of tenderness as he tries to calm his wife down when he realises he’s gone too far.
Comedian Bobby Davro has been well cast as Eric and his comic timing is spot on. Oliver Joel’s Tony portrays himself as a tough guy, not caring whether his girlfriend leaves him or stays but there are moments of vulnerability that make him a likeable character. Alan Drake as Oscar gives a heart-wrenching speech about his lonely single life as he implores Tony to leave the tournament to make up with Lisa. All three cast members work well together and the audience really starts to believe that the three of them have known each other for years.
Making use of the King’s Head Theatre’s space, the play is set in the cabbie’s local sports club’s changing rooms. Fiona Martin’s design is realistic, with old notices peeling from the wall and the changing room floor that I remember from my own sports club days. Confining the action to the changing room means that when tensions reach boiling point, the men become even more frustrated when they have nowhere else to go, further adding to the tension. Although at the heart of the play is the fact that the characters are trying to escape their everyday problems through their table-tennis practice, the moments of tension and heartache are too frequently interspersed with comic relief. The result is that a lot of the heartfelt moments are lost as comedy takes centre stage, which is a shame for the piece overall.
Author: Simon Block
Producers: Lawson Joel Productions & Cracking Up Productions
Director: Jason Lawson
Booking Until: 5 July 2015
Box Office: 020 7226 4443
Booking Link: https://kingsheadtheatre.ticketsolve.com/