Blyth Spartans Clubhouse,
Sunday 4 December 2022
& then on UK tour
A passionate tale about football supporters, written by Nathan Scott-Dunn, is on tour after success at Edinburgh Fringe. As we left our conversation was a simple one: "was that the best piece of theatre that we have seen this year?"
Blyth may not be the usual point of call for professional theatre but this show took place in the clubhouse of the legendary Blyth Spartans. Centred around a covered pool table, this was very much theatre in the round. The characters enter and leave via the doors at each end of the bar. They shout, snarl and fight in the area marked out by the bar's tables. In short this is a visceral experience that makes full use of the space available.
A problem for this show on this particular evening was it was happening at the same time as England were sticking a couple of goals past the Senegal team - so the potential audience were probably in front on their televisions. Having said that, there was still time to catch the second half (and third goal afterwards). Now Nadav Burstein, the musician, stated at the beginning that we were going to witness a better show. I'm inclined to agree with him.
Four Hibs fans meet in their local - the Dog & Duck - in the hope that Deeks (Bailey Newsome) has been able to score tickets for the Scottish Cup Final. The good news is that he has the tickets, the bad news is that they not only cost £250 each but he had to borrow the money by lying to a local violent thug Craig Turnbull (Josh Brooks). When Turnbull appears in the bar Josh Brooks is able to project his menacing behaviour around the room. This is very immersive theatre.
Mags (Ella Stokesy) the barmaid suggests setting up a fight rather than paying him back and Deeks' older brother Tony (Sands Stirling) enters the frame. Tony is involved in drink and drugs and he is able to throw his weight around the performance space.
The show captivates the relationships between the four football fans as well as the unqualified optimism which every fan has ahead of each season and they maintain until reality kicks in. Of course, if your team makes it to the final then that optimism remains until the end - even if your team hasn't won the cup since 1902 (hence the title of the show).
Each one of the cast brings not only energy to the performance but also a degree of intimacy. Whether it is revealing that they enjoy a night at the bingo or why they fell out with their siblings. But what makes this show stands out is that each part of the plot feels natural - nothing comes across as out of step to the general plot. Whilst the show can be shocking at times, it isn't trying to be sensationalist.
The combination of wonderful writing, tight direction and great acting create a brilliant and, at times, brutal 90 minute show that is probably one of the best shows we will see this year.
Review: Stephen Oliver
Cast & Creatives
Writer / Director: Nathan Scott-Dunn
Director: Nathan Scott-Dunn and Sands Stirling.
Bailey Newsome as Deeks,
Xander Cowan as Sambo,
Kieran Hamilton as Zippy,
Josh Brock as Craig Turnbull,
Ella Stokesy as Mags,
Sands Stirling as Tony
Nadav Burstein as the Musician.
On The Web:
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Academy 17, Middlesbrough 05/12/22: 6:30pm https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/1902-award-winning-free-theatre-at-academy-17-middlesbrough-tickets-474631213737