The Red Lion
Reviewed – 6th November 2017
“Marber’s dialogue fizzes and dances with sharp exchanges and some hilarious moments”
I wouldn’t normally be keen to see a play about football, it’s not something I’m interested in. But this isn’t really a play about football. It’s about the tensions between community and business, between cooperation and self-interest. It’s about secrets and plots, honesty and lies. And it is very good indeed.
The set (Patrick Connellan) is the locker room of a non-league football club. The kit man and general behind the scenes helper Yates, played by John Bowler, is ironing football shirts. He has been involved in the club for years and values the volunteers and supporters. He has the Red Lion club mascot tattooed over his heart. Bowler is full of a tired passion and full of sadness for his lost past, when he was a star player at the club. He is involved in a power struggle with Stephen Tompkinson’s Kidd, the ambitious and driven manager of the club. Kidd sees the club as a business, one he can use to his advantage. He is not averse to bending the rules to line his own pockets. Yates and Kidd want different things from and for the new young player, Dean Bone’s vulnerable, determined Jordan. The three men are all damaged, all seeking better lives, all needing money.
Tomkinson is superb as Kidd. He is devastatingly funny, volcanically furious, and yet manages to show the vulnerability and anxiety that underlie his behaviour. We may despise his actions but we feel some sympathy for his human failings. John Bowler’s Yates is almost poetic in his despair and love for the club. He wants to become a mentor and support for Jordan, perhaps remembering his own glory days by nurturing the talent of the raw young man. Jordan’s self-containment and adherence to his Christian beliefs are tested and found wanting, Dean Bone finding the perfect balance of hope and uncertainty within the character of a young man scarred by violence.
This play, ably directed by Max Roberts, also reflects our changing society; the loss of the old type of football club with it’s community base and involvement, to the demands of profit and business are a metaphor for larger societal changes. Marber’s dialogue fizzes and dances with sharp exchanges and some hilarious moments, yet leaves us with a quiet sense of loss and endings. Red Lion is well worth watching and leaves the audience with food for thought.
Reviewed by Katre
Photography by Mark Douet
THE RED LION
is at Trafalgar Studios until 2nd December