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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

 

Flinch
★★★

Old Red Lion Theatre

Flinch

Flinch

Old Red Lion Theatre

Reviewed – 29th May 2019

★★★

 

“Despite its flaws, Flinch is a compelling piece of theatre and it is hard not to get invested in the young couple’s drama”

 

The comedy Flinch, directed by Rosalind Brody and written by Emma Hemingford, intimately explores the failing relationship between young couple Mark (Joe Reed) and Jessica (Emma Hemingford). Mark works as a trader in the City and Jessica is a struggling actress who has just moved to London to live with Mark after three years of dating. After Mark flinches away when a drunk man (Andrew Armitage) threatens Jessica with a ‘gun-shaped banana’ on their first night in their new flat, issues relating to emasculation, failure and the struggle for intimacy in their relationship are quickly exposed.

The play consists of domestic scenes between the young couple, all of which end in heated arguments. These scenes are separated by brief blackouts and harsh red lighting in which Reed, Hemingford and Armitage move in slow motion enacting several outcomes of Armitage’s fruity attack. In one interlude, Reed heroically saves Hemingford from Armitage’s clutches. In another, Armitage viciously chokes Hemingford with Reed nowhere to be seen. The disparity of these scenes shows just how different the couple remember the night in question and highlights their inability to see things from the other person’s point of view. The lighting for the rest of the play is very bright which perhaps represents the spotlight being shone on this dysfunctional relationship.

Reed and Hemingford have little chemistry which for the most part serves the play well. Mark and Jessica are clearly bad for each other and their views on the world, relationships and the future are wildly different. This lack of chemistry however also made it quite difficult to understand how they had ever been a couple in the first place even when they do reminisce about their early romance. The couple are hugely unlikeable, and it is hard for the audience to be sympathetic to their plight considering the lack of effort on both sides to make things work. Regardless, Reed and Hemingford are strong actors and are at their best when monologuing.

The set is not particularly complex, but the space is used well. A raised square stage is backed by a set of cupboards filled with coats, food, toiletries and books which helps to expand the space beyond the dining room table set at the centre of the stage. This does also however mean that the actors often have their backs to the audience which is mildly frustrating in a play where facial expression is of the upmost importance. In addition, Reed and Hemingford frequently step off the raised stage onto the theatre floor which helps to foster greater intimacy between the audience and the quarrelling couple.

Despite its flaws, Flinch is a compelling piece of theatre and it is hard not to get invested in the young couple’s drama. Flinch is a poignant reminder of how easily things can fall apart and a great advocation for the importance of interpersonal communication.

 

Reviewed by Flora Doble

Photography by Ali Wright

 


Flinch

Old Red Lion Theatre until 15th June

 

Last ten shows reviewed at this venue:
Phantasmagorical | ★★★ | October 2018
The Agency | ★★ | October 2018
Indebted to Chance | ★★★★ | November 2018
Voices From Home | ★★★½ | November 2018
Anomaly | ★★★★ | January 2019
In Search Of Applause | ★★ | February 2019
Circa | ★★★★ | March 2019
Goodnight Mr Spindrift | ★★ | April 2019
Little Potatoes | ★★★ | April 2019
The Noises | ★★★★ | April 2019

 

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