Review: The Greater Game, Waterloo East

At Waterloo East Theatre, The Greater Game is a sobering reminder of the individual stories behind the statistics of our war dead, and a fitting tribute too 

“Play together, sign up together…die together “

John, Jumbo, Peggy, Mac, Spider…the names above the dressing room hooks are a simple but effective reminder that behind wartime statistics are countless lives that have been ended. Whether the hundreds of thousands of total British casualties of World War One, or the forty-two men of the Clapton Orient football team who volunteered en masse for the effort, it can be hard – overwhelming even – to remember that each one was an individual.

It is a thought that is threaded throughout the entirety of Michael Head’s play The Greater Game based on Stephen Jenkins’ book They Took The Lead. It drills down to seven key members of that football squad (now known as Leyton Orient) and deeper yet to the intense friendship between of the lads whose playing field moves from boyhood kickarounds in the North-East, to professional success in East London, to brutal conflict at the Somme. Continue reading “Review: The Greater Game, Waterloo East”

Review: Worth A Flutter, Hope

A broad, blokey comedy at the Hope Theatre, Worth A Flutter makes some people laugh, if not me

“There’s two sides to every story”

A curious one, this. The first half of Michael Head’s Worth A Flutter is full of the kind of broad, sitcom-like humour of which I’m no real fan. But after the interval, a more thoughtful strand to his writing emerges and with surreal touches threaded throughout both, a fascinating, if slightly flawed, production is the result.

Set in and around a Bermondsey greasy spoon, the play follows the romantic trials and tribulations of Matt and Sam, as they both pursue caff owner Helen. Matt’s got a high-maintenance fiancée who is an uncontrollable flirt and Sam is deeply, unhappily married but both see a way out, over bacon sandwiches and drily witty conversation. Trouble is, they don’t know about each other. Continue reading “Review: Worth A Flutter, Hope”

Review: Foul Pages, Hope

Foul Pages, Hope Theatre, London Fringe, Shakespeare,

Having a gay old time of it with Shakespeare and his company in Foul Pages at the Hope Theatre, London.

“We’re going to get it up the arse by the new King of England…’
Thank God we rehearsed.

It is easy to slip into reverence with artistic representations of William Shakespeare, such is his storied reputation but pleasingly, there’s little of that on display here in Robin Hooper’s Foul Pages. Imagining the man behind the myth, Hooper presents the Bard as a hard-working theatre professional, beset by controversies, split loyalties and tough decisions – the Vicky Featherstone of his day if you will.

His Rita, Sue… moment comes as a result of needing to secure the patronage of new king James I, not just for his own career prospects but to save the imprisoned Sir Walter Raleigh, a close personal friend of his collaborator the Countess of Pembroke. But to please the king is to disappoint some of his actors and in the Wiltshire estate where they’re all sequestered whilst London is riddled with plague, the consequences of puncturing actors’ egos become all too real. Continue reading “Review: Foul Pages, Hope”

Review: Sea Life, Hope Theatre

“Not talking about it is not the same as coping with it”

In a land with as unreliable a climate as ours, it’s no wonder that there’s something unmistakably weird about English seaside towns outside the height of summer. Would-be sunbathers hunkered down on the beach behind windbreaks, families munching picnics in the car because its raining, hordes of sulky teenagers stalking amusement arcades with little amusement to be found besides the penny pusher, seagulls terrorising tourists with their chip-stealing ways – oh I DO like to be beside the seaside!

Lucy Catherine’s new play Sea Life pulls aside that veil of stick-of-rock-scented nostalgia though, to probe deeply into what life might be like for those who actually live in these coastal communities, whilst still investing her story with the kind of brilliantly mordant humour that recalls the likes of The League of Gentlemen. Three siblings are eking out an existence in the town where their family has lived for decades, a community that is seriously under threat from coastal erosion with even the cemetery now at the mercy of the crumbling cliffs. Continue reading “Review: Sea Life, Hope Theatre”