Tag Archives: Ali Wright

Fever Pitch

Fever Pitch

★★★★

Hope Theatre

Fever Pitch

Fever Pitch

Hope Theatre

Reviewed – 2nd September 2021

★★★★

 

“With Martha Godfrey’s lighting and Kristina Kapilin’s sound design, we are always in the moment of this thrilling production”

 

It’s practically thirty years now since Nick Hornby’s career defining book, “Fever Pitch”, was first published. I didn’t get around to reading it myself until later, already familiar with Hornby’s style from, among others, ‘High Fidelity’ which charted the failed relationships of a neurotic record collector. I could relate to that. Football, though, was a different beast entirely. My wilful ignorance of the ‘beautiful game’ was always a factor that pushed the book down my reading list. It was an unfounded prejudice. “Fever Pitch” is about football, but at the same time it isn’t. Yes, it’s a memoir about Hornby’s two decades as a football moron (his words!) but moreover it is an ode to obsession, depression, and the human condition; and whatever walk of life we are ambling along there is something we can all identify with. Although football is the main story, it is also just the backdrop to a life story.

Joel Samuels’ adaptation skilfully condenses the book into just under ninety minutes, without going into extra time. It is a lot to fit in, but Kennedy Bloomer directs from the touch lines with an economy of style that faithfully covers most of the ground, while certainly putting her team through the paces. Jack Trueman is the undoubted captain here, as narrator Nick. With a convivial charisma he also captures the geeky monomania, aware of but powerless against the effects his obsession has on his life. “I fell in love with football as I was later to fall in love with women: suddenly, inexplicably, uncritically, giving no thought to the pain or disruption it would bring with it”. Trueman has a lot of words to deal with, but he rarely drops the ball. If he does, he gives a cheeky wink to the audience and ploughs on. The multi rolling cast move around him, switching characters in the blink of an eye, substituting mothers for daughters for girlfriends for fathers for brothers for teammates for commentators for friends for fans for hooligans… You get the drift. Ashley Gerlach, Louise Hoare, and Gabrielle MacPherson are equally marvellous in their versatility, digging deep into their treasure chest of accents, characters and emotional kaleidoscope. There are some hilarious moments of gender-blind role playing, particularly Gerlach’s brilliant female impersonations.

The rapid-fire delivery is spot on for the stage, but what is perhaps inevitable is that sometimes the finer nuances of Hornby’s writing are forfeited. There are some unforgettable moments in the book, particularly when Hornby describes the tragedies of Heysel and Hillsborough, that lose their poignancy in this retelling. However, for these aspects to be fully explored and given the respect they warrant, it would probably require a whole other show of their own. Similarly, there is a lot of talk about ‘filling a hole’ to explain away the mind-set of the obsessive and depressive personality. But again, this is another show, and Samuels has made the right editorial choices. His eye is on the entertainment value, and he certainly scores on that level. This production captures too the self-deprecation inherent in Hornby’s original. When Trueman bemoans that being white, middle class and suburban is the worst category to fit into, we laugh but are aware of where our sympathies should lie. The attacks on sexism and racism are made more pertinent using comedy as its podium.

With Martha Godfrey’s lighting and Kristina Kapilin’s sound design, we are always in the moment of this thrilling production. It is often panoramic in the way it shows us how much times have changed over the past decades, but it also hones in on home truths in an intimate and quite loopy way. It is meditative one minute and raucous the next. You can reflect and cheer at the same time – which makes this production quite unique. Whether you love or hate football, there’s much to love in this production of “Fever Pitch”.

 

Reviewed by Jonathan Evans

Photography by Ali Wright

 


Fever Pitch

Hope Theatre until 25th September

 

Jonathan’s reviews this year:
Sherlock Holmes: The Case of the Hung Parliament | ★★★★ | Online | February 2021
Remembering the Oscars | ★★★ | Online | March 2021
The Picture of Dorian Gray | ★★★★ | Online | March 2021
Disenchanted | ★★★ | Online | April 2021
Bklyn The Musical | ★★★★★ | Online | March 2021
Abba Mania | ★★★★ | Shaftesbury Theatre | May 2021
Cruise | ★★★★★ | Duchess Theatre | May 2021
Preludes in Concert | ★★★★★ | Online | May 2021
You Are Here | ★★★★ | Southwark Playhouse | May 2021
Amélie The Musical | ★★★★ | Criterion Theatre | June 2021
Bad Days And Odd Nights | ★★★★★ | Greenwich Theatre | June 2021
Express G&S | ★★★★ | Pleasance Theatre | June 2021
Forever Plaid | ★★★★ | Upstairs at the Gatehouse | June 2021
The Hooley | ★★★★★ | Chiswick House & Gardens | June 2021
Forgetful Heart | ★★★★ | Online | June 2021
Staircase | ★★★ | Southwark Playhouse | June 2021
Be More Chill | ★★★★ | Shaftesbury Theatre | July 2021
Heathers | ★★★ | Theatre Royal Haymarket | July 2021
The Two Character Play | ★★★★ | Hampstead Theatre | July 2021
My Night With Reg | ★★★★ | The Turbine Theatre | July 2021
Big Big Sky | ★★★★ | Hampstead Theatre | August 2021
The Windsors: Endgame | ★★★ | Prince of Wales Theatre | August 2021
The Rice Krispie Killer | ★★★★ | Lion and Unicorn Theatre | August 2021
Constellations | ★★★★ | Vaudeville Theatre | August 2021
Operation Mincemeat | ★★★★★ | Southwark Playhouse | August 2021
When Darkness Falls | ★★★ | Park Theatre | August 2021
Cinderella | ★★★★★ | Gillian Lynne Theatre | August 2021
Fever Pitch | ★★★★★ | Hope Theatre | September 2021

 

Click here to see our most recent reviews

 

Godot is a Woman

Godot is a Woman

★★★½

Pleasance Theatre

Godot is a Woman

Godot is a Woman

Pleasance Theatre

Reviewed – 8th June 2021

★★★½

 

“all will certainly be inspired and enlightened by its end”

 

In 1955, the English-language version of Samuel Beckett’s play Waiting for Godot premiered in London. Initially denounced by critics as ‘boring’ and ‘a play where nothing happens’, Beckett’s tragicomedy about Vladimir and Estragon waiting endlessly for a man named Godot (who – spoiler – never arrives) is now considered one of the most significant plays of the twentieth century due to its exploration of the human condition.

However, despite such a universal theme, an ugly sexism hangs over the play’s casting. Beckett strongly objected to the idea of women taking on the roles of the play’s two protagonists, his estate going as far to file lawsuits against theatre companies who attempted to do so. Through a combination of debate, dance numbers, and, as expected, tedious waiting, theatre troupe Silent Faces address this outdated restriction in a thoroughly playful manner in their new show Godot is a Woman.

Jack Wakely, Josie Underwood, and Cara Withers (the two former also co-writing the play alongside Cordelia Stevenson) take to the stage in the scruffy attire and bowler hats associate with Beckett’s two leads. The trio work harmoniously together, bouncing off each other and switching between roles with ease.

The play starts off rather slow with little dialogue, most likely intended to reflect the sedate pace of Beckett’s original work. This is admittedly a bit of a slog especially for those unfamiliar with the source material which the three are parodying.

The play picks up significantly in its second half with choreographed dances, lively debate in a mock court trial, and several dramatic costume changes. A particular highlight is a medley of hits by female artists from Madonna to Dua Lipa while the cast list female firsts and achievements since Beckett’s death in 1989. It is (rightly so) argued here that social and cultural attitudes to women have changed so significantly in the last three decades that it is frankly absurd to uphold the wishes of a dead man who may have indeed changed his opinion had he lived into the twenty-first century.

The mock trial is the strongest section of the performance, eliciting the most laughter from the audience and clearly communicating the ridiculousness of this gender restriction. It begs the question why the entire show did not take on this format as it is here where the cast really find their rhythm, passion, and voice.

The set (Frances Gibon) features the leafless tree backdrop and the rock on which Estragon repeatedly sits of the original play. There are several amusing props including a Waiting for Godot book that hangs by a rope above the stage (acting as the holy book to swear by in the court scenes) and a diagram of prostate used to (poorly) explain why Vladimir, who frequently has to leave the stage to urinate, cannot be played by a woman.

The sound design (Ellie Isherwood) is particularly strong with jolly telephone ‘hold’ music playing almost constantly throughout the performance to evoke a sense of endless waiting. Audio clips from BBC Radio 4 are also utilised well to demonstrate the intense discourse and lasting legacy around the play and its performance.

In Godot is a Woman, the unceasing waiting of Beckett’s play is ultimately replaced with action, movement, and liveliness. It is a symbolic moment when Wakely, Underwood and Withers announce that they will be ‘going, not waiting’ and leave the stage, something Beckett’s characters are unable to do. Those unfamiliar with Beckett’s seminal work may struggle initially with this performance but all will certainly be inspired and enlightened by its end.

 

 

Reviewed by Flora Doble

Photography by Ali Wright

 


Godot is a Woman

Cockpit Theatre until 12th June

 

Reviewed this year by Flora:
Ginger Johnson & Pals | ★★★★ | Pleasance Theatre | June 2021

 

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