The Greater Game
Waterloo East Theatre
Reviewed – 1st November 2018
“It is incredibly important that such a story as this is told on a theatrical platform”
Based on the book ‘They Took the Lead’ by Stephen Jenkins, The Greater Game is a play written by Michael Head and directed by Adam Morley that follows the true story of the players of what was then called Clapton Orient football club, who as a team fought together in WW1. The production serves as part of the commemorations for the centenary of the end of the Great War as a portion of the ‘Football Remembers’ project.
The backdrop on the stage hosts a number of pictures of the real men involved in the story, each with a small poppy attached to the frame which is both symbolic but also a little confusing given the context of the majority of the play being either before or during the war. This gave the feeling that the design and directorial concept of the piece as a whole wasn’t fully realised. Whilst it is clear what the intention was behind certain decisions, it felt at times a little unfinished and could definitely have gone further. This at times felt like it took away the impact of the story, which in itself is incredibly touching, rather than serving it. Whilst the acting in general was of a decent standard, it was often let down by some of the character’s accents which needed to be a little more refined.
It is incredibly important that such a story as this is told on a theatrical platform, and it is indeed presented with a great deal of respect and sensitivity. This was evident particular with the actors who, by playing characters based on real people, wished to portray them as realistic as possible. It is a story which must not be forgotten, and this is always alluded to throughout the piece.
Reviewed by Claire Minnitt
The Greater Game
Waterloo East Theatre until 24th November
Previously reviewed at this venue:
Worth a Flutter
Reviewed – 8th May 2018
“a clunky affair that shows potential one minute and turns to being unbearable to watch the next”
Being above a pub to watch the Cockney caper, Worth A Flutter, seems a rather appropriate setting. The play may take place mostly in the local caff, and in South London, but it could quite easily be a scene in the Queen Vic, in an episode of Eastenders. I should feel guilty going straight for the working-class London play/Eastenders comparison, however, the fact that this production is filled with gender and social stereotypes I feel it only deserves some pigeonholing itself. A dark comedy that examines the love lives of a select group of Londoners, Michael Head’s Worth A Flutter is a clunky affair that shows potential one minute and turns to being unbearable to watch the next.
Aforementioned, the play is set in and around the comings and goings of a greasy spoon in Bermondsey. Following the romantic troubles of Matt (played by Head himself) and Sam (Jack Harding), both trying to pursue café waitress, Helen (Clare McNamara), neither party knows they’re in a race for Helen’s affections. Both men are in loveless relationships and whilst drowning their sorrows in cups of tea and brown sauce, find comfort, laughter and sparks with the down-to-earth, easy to talk to waitress.
The first half sees Matt’s story take centre stage, reminiscing to the audience about his past failures with women in his cheeky chappy manner. Generally the first fifty minutes submits to most of the bawdy and blokey humour (a Scottish talking penis says it all), which found some laughs, but only a slight chuckle at most from myself. After the interval gives way to a more thoughtful and affecting change of pace as Sam is provided a chance to explain his story. Harding and McNamara give credible turns as Sam and Helen, offering the most genuine and heart-felt performances of the play, as they tackle the topics of domestic abuse and the hardships of marriage with sincerity. Scenes between the two of them are certainly the most engaging.
Michael Head has based many of the characters and plot lines on the friends and family members of his own life, which makes for criticising the at times sexist, and most certainly caricatured humour that more difficult, as it is founded on real life. Head tries to make up for this by having the protagonists call attention to the other characters vulgarity, not condoning their behaviour, but nevertheless, it lacks the heart and likeability needed to counterbalance the coarse humour.
The actors do a fine job at persevering and making the most out of the script. Reading between the lines, you can see where Head is trying to take this, but his execution for the majority is off point. The quirky abstract scenes have good intentions but fall flat, whilst the theme of life being a race filled with betting stakes could be heightened further. All in all, Worth A Flutter is not a horse that I would be putting my money on.
Reviewed by Phoebe Cole
Worth a Flutter
Hope Theatre until 19th May
Previously reviewed at this venue