The Red Lion, 4****, London

by Patrick Marber.

Trafalgar Studio 2, 14 Whitehall, London SW1A 2DY to 2 December 2017.
Mon-Sat 7.45pm Mat Thu & Sat 3pm.
Runs 95 mins No interval.

TICKETS: 0844 871 7632

Review: William Russell, 8 November 2017

The not so beautiful game
Patrick Marber’s play is about the conflict between a pushy and as bent as the situation requires him to be manager of a non league football team somewhere in the North of England and an old pro reduced to being the man who looks after the players’ kit. Their battle is over an aspiring, gifted young man, Jordan, played to the life by Dean Bone, who has talent – and a temper. He also has a gammy knee which he keep secret. The manager, a towering performance by Stephen Tompkinson, a flash dresser with a terrible trade mark hat, needs him for the team, but knows he can sell him down the line to clubs in the league and there will be something in it for him. The kit man, John Bowler wonderfully grizzled and defeated, was once a star player for the club and wants to encourage and help the boy, but he is also a by the rules man. The result is a thrilling battle of wills between the two over the far from innocent young man which ends not as you would expect.

The production reeks of the dressing room – the theatre is full of the scent of embrocation and warmth as one goes in to find the kit man ironing the players’ shirts – in the splendid set conjured up by Patrick Connellan. Director Max Roberts has done an impressive job with this production for Newcastle’s Live Theatre getting a well deserved West End transfer. The Red Lion is a small play, rewritten since it was last seen at the National Theatre, but its themes are big and the three actors play together perfectly, a demonstration of ensemble acting at its best.

Yates: John Bowler.
Kidd: Stephen Tompkinson.
Jordan: Dean Bone.

Director: Max Roberts.
Designer: Patrick Connellan.

2017-11-09 16:53:43

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