The Red Lion at Trafalgar Studios
Work hard, play hard. The game is part of the job, and the two meet passion: no obstacle can hold back a determined player, whatever side of the pitch he stands on. Football is a wonderful sport, but so are all the stories that are born from and around it. The Red Lion, by Patrick Marber and revised with Live Theatre, happens and evolves, in the dressing room, and for this reason truly touches unique human chords.
Kidd (Stephen Tompkinson) – the manager of the Red Lions, playing in the non-professional league – has just got Jordan (Dean Bone) as a reserve for the team. Yates (John Bowler), who has been in the club initially as a player – one of the most famous in the community – then manager, and currently preparing the kit, was the first to introduce the boy to Kidd. He acts as a mentor for the gifted lad, pointing to higher routes for a brilliant career, to the professional league and on to national teams. But so does Kidd, although with a slightly different turn that would benefit his personal financial situation the most. The final decision, however, will not be just up to Jordan, as the board of the club will be deeply involved in the just-uncovered affairs among the three.
Belonging to different generations spanning before and after the 80s, the trio engage in heated discussions over values such as loyalty and honesty. Memories clash with the cold logic of business, while also blending at times with the strategic planning over the newcomer’s destiny. In this stream of past and future, the reference of “game” switches fittingly from the sport to the tactics of a football manager.
Set in an unspecified town in the North East of England, the story is marked by a strong accent and vernacular words. The language allows for a rhythmic script, playing with colloquial and salty expressions, and letting the emotional side of football emerge.
Far from being a regional story, however, the play touches on so much of human nature that its universality goes beyond any expectations. The beginning is hilarious, among funny moments in the park and bubbly dialogues, everything narrated and evoked from the inside of the dressing room. The show carries on the initial humour, scattered more rarely as the narrative moves on to more dramatic matters.
The intimate space of Studio 2 enhances the sentiments, with the audience receiving the short-projected harsh lines and jokes. The actors brilliantly sustain the tense pace, creating a gripping climax of emotions amid the brutality of honesty and the vehemence of lions. Stephen Tompkinson delivers an incredibly roaring performance, passionate to the point of having the spectators feeling for him, despite the worst of his character.
Photo: Mark Douet
The Red Lion is at Trafalgar Studios from 1st November until 2nd December 2017. Book your tickets here.
Watch the trailer for The Red Lion here: