Pros: The excellent performances of all three cast members.
Cons: Not being a soccer addict I may have missed some of the ‘in jokes’ and nuances.
Transferring from a sell-out run at Live Theatre, Newcastle, this presentation at the Trafalgar Studios is timely following the two recent world cup wins for England’s young football talent, and the latest round of manager sackings. The Red Lion in question is not a pub, but the logo of a semi-professional football club.
Entering a steam filled, dingy dressing room with the occasional faint whiff of Deep Heat (other sports rubs are also available) we see the team shirts hanging up or neatly folded around the room. The entire piece takes place in this dressing room with a very quick change from neat clean kit to the untidy scattering of dirty, muddy clothing indicating the passage of 90 minutes. A shout out to the creative team for getting the right level of intimacy and for the portrayal of what I imagine is a typical, slightly claustrophobic amateur club changing room.
We didn’t get to see or hear much about most of the team though; only three characters are presented, representing three generations. The older kit man, Yates (John Bowler), with an intense loyalty to the club following earlier troubles in his life; the middle aged manager, Kidd (Stephen Tompkinson), whose life is falling apart, leaving football to be the one constant helping him keep it together; the young talent, Jordan (Dean Bone), with his own issues which are revealed as the play unfolds.
We witness the developing relationships between all three characters and how they are all using the club for their own ends and desires. They are passionate about football but also very selfish, each looking to profit from their involvement in different ways. Unfortunately they are all so intense they end up destroying their connection to the very thing they crave.
It is not all doom and gloom: there were many very funny moments concentrated in the first half. The comic timing of Stephen Tompkinson and John Bowler is immaculate. Tompkinson’s portrayal of the seedy Kidd is excellent, as is Bowler’s slightly stooped, world weary Yates. Dean Bone plays the wide eyed youth (who is not as naïve as he makes out) to perfection.
I cannot comment on whether this bears any resemblance to the reality of non-league football, but it did have an air of authenticity. Considering Patrick Marber’s involvement with Lewes F.C. I am sure the characters and events will be recognised by any weekend players in the audience. The play does make you think about the ever growing chasm between semi-professional and community teams and the multi-million pound businesses that make up the Premier League.
Author: Patrick Marber
Director: Max Roberts
Producer: Trish Wadley
Box Office: 0844 871 7632
Booking Link: http://www.atgtickets.com/shows/the-red-lion/trafalgar-studios/#overview_tab
Booking Until: 2 December 2017