Have you ever wondered what your local Starbucks coffee shop used to be? Or what would happen if your own building just disappeared? Where would all the memories go? Red Pitch is a tale whirring with energy that realistically bounces us through these thoughts, with themes of friendship, gentrification and ambition.
Somewhere in South London, near Camberwell, three teenage black boys religiously meet up on a slightly worn down, desolate football pitch: ‘the Red Pitch’. They train, laugh and chat about their families, lives, girls, Instagram and lifelong goals. Full of desire and life force, they dream of the day when they all ‘become’. The audience are immersively lodged into their wholesome, gritty lives, even, at moments, literally passing the ball back to them.
Enchantingly charismatic, Kedar Williams-Stirling grips us through the whole performance with his extraordinary stage presence, playing the personable and ambitious Bibal, whose teenage angst you sometimes feel has got the best of him. Francil Lovehall plays Omz, the caring but more complex of the three, and brings a perfect realism. Joey (Emeka Sesay), who ultimately becomes the mediator, acts as a perfect mold that holds the whole triad together. The boys bounce between banter and antagonism; and show three deep and complex childhood friendships: we see jealousy, love, resentment and laughter. It made me wonder if all these things, good and bad, are needed to have real, intimate friendships. This relationship alone brings the audience light chuckles and half smiles throughout, as their intimate rapport and camaraderie unravel.
This play is about entering adulthood, but also about a major social issue; the problem of gentrification. The estate the three have grown up in is being torn down, the local chicken shop, Morleys, is turning into a Costa, and families are having to leave for good. It made me think about the detrimental effects of our fast-paced, developing world; that we are demolishing historical aspects of neighborhoods, raising residential prices too high, and negatively impacting small businesses. But most importantly, this is affecting the youth. And at what real cost?
Essentially, for Bibal, Omz and Joey their home and safe haven is being torn away from them: where do their memories go?
Set designer Amelia Jane Hankin convincingly throws us right into a real life pitch, with the performance staged in the round. This space is used effectively by movement director, Dickson Mbi, who brings an impressive moment of light relief half way through, when we see the three boys’ repartee breaking into a dynamic and lively dance sequence: I only wish we had seen more of this. There is also a tense and brash fight scene, orchestrated by fight director Kev McCurdy, that caused yelps across the audience.
Director Daniel Bailey’s production gives a glimpse into the lives of three ambitious, amiable characters. The wit is exciting and funny; the plot is rich and exciting, and it raises socio-economic issues without being dogmatic and preachy. Red Pitch advertises itself as a rite of passage and that’s exactly what it is, suggesting what will the future hold. See it.
Written by Tyrell Williams
Directed by Daniel Bailey
Produced by: Bush Theatre
Red Pitch plays at Bush Theatre until 26 March. Further information and bookings via the below button.