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Tuesday, 11 April 2017

REVIEW: The Red Lion at Newcastle Live Theatre

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Update (24. 4. 2017) There is availability on just six of the remaining shows, with others having very limited availability or being returns only.

BEST TICKET AVAILABILITY FOR REMAINING SHOWS:
2PM MATINEES - Thursday 27 April, Thursday 4 May & Saturday 6 May
7.30pm PERFORMANCES -  Wednesday 26 April, Thursday 27 April & Friday 5 May 
All other performances have very limited availability or returns only.




Passions Rise In Wonderful Soccer Tale

A Live Theatre Production
The Red Lion
Newcastle Live Theatre
Until Saturday 6th May 2017

Written by Patrick Marber
Directed by Max Roberts
Designed by Patrick Connellan
Starring Stephen Tompkinson, John Bowler and Dean Bone

Bill Shankly is often quoted as saying “Some people think football is a matter of life and death. I assure you, it's much more serious than that.” Patrick Marber’s rebooted football play manages, were others have failed, to capture that very essence that makes people passionate about the sport. Very much like a team game, the sublime performances combine to make The Red Liona wonderful piece of theatre.


Photo: Keith Pattison
Whilst this is a show in three acts, there is no interval, in this tale about three cold Saturday afternoons at a semi-professional club in the Northern League. This decision ensures that there is no let up in the vice like grip that the action has the members of the audience.


Photo: Keith Pattison
The story begins with Yates (John Bowler) ironing shirts awaiting the arrival of journeyman manager Kidd (Stephen Tompkinson). Yates used to wear the number 6 shirt for the club. He was involved in the cup victory that led to a big third round tie and this in turn helped pay for a stand to be built. The ground now though is barely adequate. Kidd chastises the volunteer groundsman as he adds sand to the quagmire in the penalty area.


Photo: Keith Pattison
They are then joined by young Jordan (Dean Bone) who is hoping to get a game with the club. Yates offers to help him out on the treatment table and this gives them the chance to discuss about the history of the club and the business side of the game.


Photo: Keith Pattison
The set, designed by Patrick Connellan with lighting design by Drummond Orr and sound by Dave Flynn, is a run down changing room. The paint is peeling and the lampshades of the fluorescent strips are rusting. This helps with the ambiance of the play.


Photo: Keith Pattison
The brilliant thing about this play was that I felt I knew its characters. I was brought up supporting a club in the basement league of the professional football league and we had to pass the bucket around for player’s wages and to help pay for the electric. A bust knee on a fit player could cost us the game, indeed the season. When I moved to the North East I started watching Northern League games and loved the honesty and the spirit of those matches. The games are entertaining and there is a real camaraderie between fans and players. The players cannot fail to hear the comments from the terraces. Indeed The Red Lion repeats this banter and, though some of it is “potty mouthed” the script is faithful to much of what I have witnessed at this level. This is as far away from prawn sandwiches and prosecco of the Premiership as you can get.


Photo: Keith Pattison
I have seen a number of attempts to make plays about the beautiful game but they lack the attention to detail that this play manages. Perhaps the very fact that writer Patrick Marber was himself involved in rescuing his local Conference South side Lewes F.C. has helped.


Photo: Keith Pattison
It also helps that you believe in the actors. John Bowler’s Yates has that sense of community and of the very place that you get with local teams. He has experienced the highs and lows of the club and cannot see himself being anywhere else on a Saturday afternoon. 


Photo: Keith Pattison
Stephen Tompkinson’s Kidd is equally as passionate but he also has that massive sense of ego that is often apparent in managers of any level. He expects compliance and, as we saw in Faith and Cold Reading, he has the force of personality to achieve it. 


Photo: Keith Pattison
Dean Bone continues to impress after appearances in The Terminal Velocity of Snowflakes, The Savage and Rendezvous. His character shows only loyalty to his own career and appreciates that by doing a good job at the club he will, ultimately, improve upon his own game.


Photo: Keith Pattison
There is a real quality to the performances, script and design of this show. Director Max Roberts has, through the performances, distilled the very essence of the, almost, religious zeal that the game’s supporters have. Down in the lower echelons of the pyramid survival is as important as the score at 5pm. This is a mindset which is perhaps lost on the fans of the top league clubs that can support their club by watching it passively on TV.

As Stan Collymore once put it: “That is the beautiful game played in a beautiful way!”

Review by Stephen Oliver

Tickets:


Update (24. 4. 2017) There is availability on just six of the remaining shows, with others having very limited availability or being returns only.

BEST TICKET AVAILABILITY FOR REMAINING SHOWS:
2PM MATINEES - Thursday 27 April, Thursday 4 May & Saturday 6 May
7.30pm PERFORMANCES -  Wednesday 26 April, Thursday 27 April & Friday 5 May 
All other performances have very limited availability or returns only.

Photo: Keith Pattison
The Red Lion is suitable for ages 16+ (Swearing) and is at Live Theatre, Newcastle from Thursday 6 April to Saturday 6 May 2017. Tickets for The Red Lion cost between £10 and £26 with concessions from £6 and group discounts available. For more information or to book tickets visit www.live.org.uk  or contact Live Theatre’s box office on (0191) 232 1232.

POST SHOW TALKS

Meet the Cast
Wednesday 19 April (after the 7.30pm show)
Director Max Roberts discusses the making of The Red Lion with cast members Stephen Tompkinson, John Bowler and Dean Bone. Followed by a Q&A.
FREE, booking essential. Suitable for Artsmark visits.

Football Panel Discussion
Wednesday 3 May (after the 7.30pm show)
Sports writers Harry Pearson (The Far Corner), George Caulkin (The Times) and former Newcastle Utd and Seaham Red Star player Steve Harper who now coaches for Newcastle United Academy join director Max Roberts and industry professionals in a discussion about the importance of amateur football in the North East and issues raised in the play. Followed by a Q&A.
FREE, booking essential. Suitable for Artsmark visits
Find out more and book.

ASSISTED PERFORMANCES
Live Theatre is fully accessible and offers a range of assisted performances aimed at improving the theatre experience for all audience members. These services are offered at no extra cost for service users. Performances with extra interpretation should not affect the performance for other audience members, although Relaxed performances may have more noise and movement from other audience members.

British Sign Language Interpreted Performance
Wednesday 26 April, 7.30pm
A BSL interpreter positioned on or next to the stage communicates in a non verbal language

Thursday 27 April, 2pm
Relaxed Performance
A laid back approach to noise or movement from the audience is taken during this performance, audience members can leave and come back in again and don’t have to be quiet. Suitable for young people with special educational needs, or anyone who many benefit from a more relaxed environment.

Thursday 27 April, 7.30pm
Captioned Performance
Words spoken by the actors are displayed as text on a screen on or next to the stage similar to television subtitles.

Touch Tour
Saturday 6 May, 1pm
A Touch Tour compliments an Audio Described show; this is a ‘hands on’ tour of the set describing props, costumes, characters and the visual style of the show especially for visitors with visual impairments.
Saturday 6 May, 2pm
Audio Description
This optional service allows audience members who choose to wear headphones to listen to a live commentary of the action on stage in between the words spoken by the characters.

To find out more about Live Theatre’s assisted performances see www.live.org.uk/assistedperformances




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