August 1984 was an auspicious time in Britain, the miners’ strike had been going since March, Frankie goes to Hollywood were number 1 with Relax (despite the BBC ban) and in Adam Hughes play Marching on Together at the Old Red Lion, a football hooligan from Leeds was being released from prison just in time for the start of the new season.
Macca (Adam Patrick Boakes) has been inside for three years and is finally free and ready to return as top dog in the notorious Leeds United ‘Service Crew’. But if a week is a long time in politics, three years is a long time in football and he soon discovers everything has changed. His old ‘No 2’ Jono (Jim Mannering) still supports the team but now goes to the family stand with his son rather than seeing the game with the new breed of ‘supporters’ known as the ‘VYT Crew’ and led by a lad called Nathan (Alex Southern) and his slavish follower Tommy (Joshua Garwood). They have taken on the task of ‘Defending the Badge’ from Macca and his old firm and Nathan in particular doesn’t hesitate in explaining to the ‘old man’ exactly how things stand.
Despite all his boasting to Jono, Macca didn’t really have a good time in prison. None of his ‘firm’ came to visit and the one thing (aside from the punch-ups at football) that was his light at the end of the tunnel was getting out and rekindling his relationship with his girlfriend Linda (Donna Preston) and his son. Unfortunately, Linda too has moved on in those three years. She is getting an education and is really not keen on having a hooligan father for her son. Macca really isn’t having a great time of things and the only semi-bright spark is that he makes friends with young Tommy who loves hearing the stories of the good old days when Macca’s ‘crew’ were the hardest and most respected in football. Through his friendship with Tommy, Macca starts to get in with Nathan and his ‘VYT crew’ and soon falls back into his old ways.
Writer Adam Hughes is a life-long Leeds fan and has managed to combine his two loves (football and writing) together in a very well-crafted and realistic play. In 1984, the country was pretty much at war with itself whether on the increasingly violent picket lines during the week or at the game on a Saturday, violence was everywhere with the season ending in three separate tragedies and the banning of English clubs from European football. But, this isn’t just a play about violence. This is a play about the people behind it and their motivation to do what they did. Macca is an amazingly complicated character who on the one hand wants to do the right thing for Linda and his son but at the same time loves his club and can’t resist being drawn into the exhilaration of the fighting. Adam Patrick Boakes delivers this so well, mainly with his eyes, which seemed to turn from borderline psycho at his first encounter with Nathan to pleading when faced with the intransient Linda. His relationship with Tommy – almost a father/son thing – is lovely to watch and see blossom. Nathan was a very intriguing character. His motivation for his actions was never totally addressed. Did he have the same passion for Leeds United as Macca, Jono or Tommy or was he just in it because he liked being top dog and having others obey him? He put a lot of planning in to each encounter with opposition supporters and could by no means be described as a mindless thug – something he had in common with all of the characters. Personally I think, 30 years on, Nathan is a rich city banker type. Channelling his aggression in to a virtual scrap with a commodity broker in the Far East and telling himself it’s all about protecting the UK Balance of Trade when it’s really about him being No 1.
Director Joshua McTaggart and Set Designer Max Dorey make excellent use of the Old Red Lion’s stage really managing to invoke the sights of the age. The linkage of scenes to fixtures (using a scoreboard) is brilliantly conceived and executed by the cast as they ‘get stuck in’ to their opponents accompanied by the music of the day – an awesome soundtrack album if anyone fancies releasing it. All in all, this is a really good show. Anyone that was around in 1984/85 will be very familiar with the events that occur, and their repercussions, and whilst not necessarily something I would take my mother to go and see “Marching on Together” is a fascinating and truthful depiction of a year when to be English was not considered that much of a compliment.
Review by Terry Eastham
It’s Leeds, it’s the height of the football season in 1984, and it’s carnage. West Yorkshire miners are on strike and football hooliganism is rife, with bitter battles being fought on both the picket line and the touchline. Macca, ex-leader of the notorious Service Crew, is released from prison into a divided Leeds that he hardly recognises. With Macca’s infamous crew now disbanded, a younger generation of hooligans have taken up his violent mantle defending the mighty Whites, leaving the former general on the side-lines without an army. Abandoned by the only group who
respected and supported him, Macca is no longer just fighting for Leeds. He’s fighting for his own survival.
Marching on Together is a violent, demanding, and necessary play that will confront a part of our past that we have often ignored or misunderstood. After the London production, a week of performances and theatre workshops will take place in Leeds at community centres, schools, and non-traditional spaces to highlight the dangers of football hooliganism and steps that can be taken to prevent violence.
Marching on Together
Company BackHere! Theatre Company
Playwright Adam Hughes – Director Joshua McTaggart
Performance Dates February 3rd 2015 – February 28th 2015
Tuesday to Saturday, 7:30pm
Saturday matinees, 2.30pm
Thursday matinees (12th, 19th & 26th), 2.30pm
Old Red Lion Theatre, 418 St John Street, London EC1V 4NJ
Telephone 0844 412 4307