by Adam Hughes.

Old Red Lion Theatre 418 St John Street Islington EC1V 4NJ To 28 February 2015.
Tue–Sat 7.30pm Mat Thu & Sat 2.30pm except 8 Feb.
Runs 2hr 10min. One interval.

TICKETS: 0844 412 4307.
Review: William Russell 5 February.

The striking world of the hooligan
Set in Leeds in 1984 during the miners’ strike, this powerful play looks at violence not on the picket line but committed by the fans of Leeds United. After serving three years in prison for his activities as leaders of a group of hooligans called the Service Crew, Macca (Adam Patrick Boakes) comes back to the pub they used expecting a hero’s welcome from his old mates.

Only one, Jono (Jim Mannering), is there, a man who is now a father and a hooligan no longer. While Macca has been away the world has moved on, there are new kids on the block and he is a has-been. Old habits die hard.

The play, splendidly directed by Joshua McTaggart, follows Macca’s battle with Nathan (Alex Southern), the leader of the new mob, his attempt to create a rival to Nathan from the impressionable Tommy (Joshua Garwood, impressive), a young miner on strike, and his relations with the mother of his child, Linda (Donna Preston). Nothing works.

There is a clever minimal set – mostly sheets of corrugated iron, a few chairs and a table which get roughly treated – and Hughes’ writing is sinewy and to the point. He has captured these young men – some miners on strike hoping for a better future, others simply out of work with no future – brilliantly. It makes for uncomfortable viewing.

The playing is very good, with Adam Patrick Boakes outstanding as a man fighting for survival in a world to which he no longer belongs, a performance matched by that of Alex Southern as Nathan, not quite a posh boy– he is a trainee accountant – but slumming it with relish, a weakling pretending to be tough.

Maybe things have moved on since 1984, but there is no getting away from the fact this is a thought-provoking evening. Just what makes these young men find in violence, in beating-up supporters of rival teams regardless, something lacking in their lives? Maybe Mr Hughes provides no answers, and whether it all meshes with the miners’ strike is questionable, but he certainly provides food for thought.

Macca: Adam Patrick Boakes.
Jono: Jim Mannering.
Tommy: Joshua Garwood.
Linda: Donna Preston.
Nathan: Alex Southern.

Director: Joshua McTaggart.
Designer: Max Dorey.
Lighting: Elliot Griggs.
Sound: George Lumkin.

2015-02-06 10:27:08

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