One Year Off at the Old Red Lion Theatre
“What’s the play about?” enquired a London taxi driver, who then declared “What, a year without football? The entire nation would go crazy!” Such is the theme of Forrester and Fletcher’s innovative new play, One Year Off, an exploration of the British psyche in the wake of a one-year ban on football. The government announces the prohibition in order to induce the British to “live fuller lives…stepping away to see how we get on…”, proclaiming that the playing of football is now a criminal offence.
The piece consists of four actors: Nat Archer (Darren Tassell), an avid football fan, Kai Kooperonii (Vincent Gould), a Premier League player who is changing career, Sheena Singh (Sheetal Kapoor), a rebellious referee, and eccentric, aspirational Ricoh Arena (Scott Westwood). Stressed, angry, fanatical fan Nat fumes and rants about the ban, struggling to cope with it. Kai is footballer turned Tony Robbins-style go-getter – “every day in every way it’s getting better and better” – creating an app, “Match a Mate”, which captures vital data of passersby on the street. Defying her conservative family, Sheena abandons medicine for football, with ambitions to officiate at premiership matches. A wry comment on sexism, a judge cannot conceive of a woman in football and sends her to a men’s prison after she is arrested for playing the game in public as a protest.
The personified Ricoh Arena, a completely insane character, is the most unusual and inventive portrayal in this work, an amusing study of a man-made construction in human form. As a man he would seem a complete loony. As a stadium his character is cleverly expressionist, screaming of aspirations to be more than a sports stadium – “Ricoh is gallery!” – and of his fear of football fans, the invading “bacteria”.
With exceptional writing, the play’s clever monologues capture beautifully the mood and psychology of a football-crazed nation with all its obsession and passion. The actors are inspired and excellent: Tassell perfectly depicts the pissed-off fan who lives for football, Gould is convincing as a positive-thinking, entrepreneurial pop psychology advocate, and Kapoor expresses with ebullient enthusiasm Sheena’s defiant sports ambitions. The most complex, athletic and eclectic role of the schizoid Ricoh Arena is earnestly and superbly enacted by Westwood.
A unique study of Britishness from the perspective of a beloved sport, One Year Off is a witty, perceptive, exceptional satire of our culture and its eccentricities.
One Year Off is on at Old Red Lion Theatre from 7th until 12th June 2016, for further information or to book visit here.
Watch writers Forrester and Fletcher and director Robert F Ball talk about One Year Off here: