Red Pitch at Bush Theatre
After debuting at Brixton’s Oval House theatre back in June 2019, Red Pitch by Tyrell Williams now finds a new home at the Bush. The rising star is already a writer to watch, having participated in the BAFTA Elevate scheme and enjoyed success with his web series HoodDocumentary. The stage, though, feels like a natural home for the artist, with Red Pitch exemplifying the type of real, raw and accessible work that’s needed to drive younger audiences into theatres.
We’re in South London where best friends Bilal, Omz and Joey dream of becoming professional footballers with hopes of playing for QPR. They can always be found on Red Pitch, which has been a staple and a sanctuary for most of their lives. With themes of belonging and identity, regeneration, ambition, family, friendship, class and the ever-changing London landscape, football is but one aspect of this multi-faceted and important play. While the topics are heavy, the banter of the boys infuses a suitable amount of comedy and light relief without ever taking away from the valid and important subject matter. There is an urgency to the play along with the sense of voices desperately demanding to be heard.
Amelia Jane Hankin’s arena staging – complete with football stands – encourages a sense of intimacy. The cast commence a kick-about as the audience arrives, which again establishes a highly naturalistic atmosphere from the off. Khalil Madovi’s sound design adds further authenticity, drawing the viewer even closer into the world of these three young friends.
Kedar Williams-Stirling of Sex Education fame bounces around the stage as Bilal, oozing an infectious energy throughout. Spectators feel they know this character immediately and, as with his cast-mates, find themselves quickly caring about these teens and their journeys. Emeka Sesay’s Joey is the most amusing, with the actor possessing natural comic timing and garnering most of the laughs. Francis Lovehall anchors things as Omz, who struggles with helping his elderly, dementia-inflicted grandfather while at the same time trying to embrace his youth and live life to the full, despite the many roadblocks in his path. Detailed, intricate performances more than do justice to a punchy and pithy script.
Coming-of-age stories on stage can often veer towards being clichéd and overly sentimental. Here, we have dialogue littered with London Street slang – often so authentic that one might suspect it’s improvised rather than scripted. The fact that the cast seem to possess strong football skills also adds to the sense of realism, and a fight sequence, choreographed by Kev McCurdy, is soberingly believable.
Director Daniel Bailey ensures a solid pace prevails, but it’s the sharp, snappy writing of Williams and the effortless camaraderie of the three actors that captivates us for the 90 minutes. The talent of the cast and creatives and their passionate investment in this project is more than apparent. If this is how the future of theatre might look, audiences are in safe hands.
Red Pitch is at Bush Theatre from 26th February until 26th March 2022. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.