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:
Reviewed – 5th September 2017
“A skilled and well crafted show”
Football fanaticism meets reality when down on his luck Trevor, drives star player Danny and agent Rachel down south to Chelsea on Deadline Day. John Hickman and Steve Robertson’s play at Theatre N16 looks at football through three distinct lenses, blending nostalgia and frustration, passion and rationalism, in a race against the clock on the most important day in the football calendar.
Now I should probably confess straightaway that I am not a football fan. Walking up the stairs to the theatre, that were decked out with a variety of multicoloured football jerseys, I did wonder what I had let myself in for. An hour long love letter to the ‘beautiful game’ did not exactly appeal. Thankfully Hickman and Robertson’s script is much more intelligent than that.
Despite my reservations, this is a really charming, funny and well thought out piece. The script balances the differing perspectives of each character beautifully, treating each one with care and humour. Yes, this play is set in the world of football, but it’s more about what the game means to these individuals; the action rooted firmly in their connection to the sport, making it heart warming and accessible, even to those who don’t understand the off side rule. James Callas Ball’s direction both capitalises on the intensity of the three people trapped in a car together and gives the actors freedom to really explore the emotional beats in the piece.
This is a true ensemble piece with the cast rapport feeling effortless. Mike Yeaman’s world weary Trevor is sympathetic and vulnerable, even after he takes a stand against the corruption of his sport. Yet his romanticism of days gone by is brutally undercut with his inherent sexism, ensuring that the audience never get too caught up in his memories of the glory days. In his first professional role, Tevye Mattheson shines as naïve Danny, a boy raised on the game struggling to deal with the politics of top level football. He’s sweet and kind, a tonic to the jaded Trevor.
But it’s Victoria Gibson as Rachel who really stands out – in the role of the ‘bloodsucking’ agent, she brings a dynamism and passion to a woman breaking into the boy’s club which keeps the audience on side. Agents are rarely seen for their compassion, but Gibson uses it to keep Victoria’s ambition in check, her commercial interest never over-powering her concern for Danny’s well being.
I really enjoyed this show. While there are a few in-jokes that went over my head, there is enough here to keep the non-football fans happy. A skilled and well crafted show that definitely made me smile.
Reviewed for thespyinthestalls.com
is at Theatre N16 until 16th September