Pros: Visceral, relevant and reverberating.
Cons: The show finds itself constrained by the small stage, particularly with the scenes of actual hooliganism.
Having grown up in the comparably mild political climate of Canada, the only thing I have in common with 1980s Leeds is the decade. Football hooliganism and the charged political anger of the miners’ strikes is a subject matter far removed from anything I know. Having now seen Marching on Together I feel like I have been given a fly-on-the-wall perspective and insight into that infamous period of British history; the mind sets, the emotions, and the politics.
Michael or Macca has just come out of three years in prison for assault. As the leader of the Service Crew firm supporting Leeds United, he took the fall for his crew in a game day battle and has come back to find friends who have gone from fighting to family men, an estranged girlfriend and son and perhaps worst of all, a new generation of crew going by the wimpy title of The Very Young Team.
While Macca appears to have a deep down longing to be on the straight and narrow for his family, he seems to have an almost instinctual familial bond and loyalty to the firm that even a bunch of ‘kids’ with a dopey team name cannot thwart.
Befriending and guiding the number two of The Very Young Team while locking horns with its leader, we watch Macca become consumed by an unthinking devotion to team and firm that goes beyond football fandom and is instead rooted in a desire for a purpose. When there are no jobs, friends are gone and families broken the firm becomes a way of life.
Adam Patrick Boakes gives a nuanced performance as Macca, loving and loyal in his own right with an almost animalistic predilection to fighting. This is a part that could be too easily simplified but Boakes presents a multi-faceted complicated character responding to his unique environment and experiences.
Other performances of note include Joshua Garwood as the impressionable and good natured Tommy and Donna Preston who delivers a persuasive performance as Macca’s despairing, fed up, protective mamma-bear of a girlfriend. Accents warmed up in the second act and to these Canadian ears, were as good as they could be by the end.
As important as fighting scenes are to this piece, more could perhaps be done to make them feel bigger in scope, scarier and have more impact – unfortunately sound and three men stamping on the ground did not quite do the trick in conveying the intensity of the moment. At times, and especially during these physical scenes, the show finds itself constrained by the small stage, and perhaps needs to explore new ways of making an impact on its audience.
Nevertheless, this is a powerful reflection on a political past, acting as a mirror of a political present and a timely reminder of the consequences of a disenfranchised youth.
Author: Adam Hughes
Director: Joshua McTaggart
Producer: BackHere! Theatre Company
Booking Until: 28 February 2015
Booking Link: http://www.ticketweb.co.uk/venue/old-red-lion-theatre-london-tickets/OLDREDLEIH/901?brand=oldredliontheatre
Box Office: 0844 412 4307