Simon Block’s Play Not A Game For Boys has been revived at the King’s Head Theatre 20 years after its debut at The Royal Court Theatre. Cracking Up Productions together with Lawson Joel Productions, with direction by Jason Lawson, brought this comedy-drama back to the stage where it firmly belongs.
With a setting of a table tennis club changing room, the play solely revolves around the lives of three London Cab Drivers, who are on the same table tennis league team. Being character driven, the three men all possess turmoil their personal life that unravels rapidly to the audience. Eric ( Bobby Davro) is the founder and glue that holds the team together ‘ If I ever have to play Div-Two, Tone, Kill Me. Oscar (Alan Drake) is the aloof and dryly funny coach and Tony (Oliver Joel) is the younger amiable as well as at times very cheeky, youth on the team’s side, The escapism that the league provides for Eric is sensitively as well at times heart wrenchingly delivered by Davro, no more so than when he describes being at the table tennis table as “..I’m beyond the reach of everything else..” As well as a wife and children, Eric has a mother with dementia he helps look after. Davro wears his heart on his sleeve compared to the neutral and lone wolf Oscar who has been his friend for many years. Oscar’s very calm persona is hiding a complex man who is world weary and frustrated with how his life, now in his fifties, has panned out. This loneliness and regret of not having female companionship is described simply near the end of the production to a bemused Tony as “Sitting. Watching. Some crappy joke…with no..one.” Drake portrays the aching loneliness of Block’s character Oscar just stunningly. Comic timing from Joel is what makes his performance as Tony a stand-out one.
Every word he says is convincing, he is the wide-boy caught between his girlfriend Lisa who has changed his life and the bachelor lifestyle to perfection. The one liners he delivers throughout compliment the more physical delivery of the comedy from Davro, whose vast comedic experience is evident. Even though the interaction between Oscar and Tony turns sour there are some great exchanges between pair such as when Oscar thanks Tony for how he helped ‘Fat Derek’ to which Tony replies “I didn’t do anything, Ozzie. He Died.” Joel definitely excels in comedy and will be interesting to see him in future roles.
The quick pace of Lawson’s production with just brief interludes of blackouts between scenes kept a feeling of rapid decent in to the plays climax. The simple but very relatable staging of the back room dressing room is a testament of the performance level needed, that just straightforward delivery of the text was all that was required of Block’s wonderful script.
Not A Game For Boys quite remarkably shows human weakness and strength in equal measure. The vulnerability that is hidden under the façade of the three characters has been captured exquisitely by Lawson but without bordering on the sentimental although perhaps this would have been an interesting contrast. With standout performances by the cast in Not A Game For Boys, this Table Tennis set play is a real winner.
Review by Francesca Mepham
Not a Game for Boys by Simon Block.
Directed by Jason Lawson
Starring Bobby Davro and featuring Alan Drake and Oliver Joel
‘Once a week three cabbies seek small respite from their daily lives in a local table tennis league. Tonight they must win or face the unthinkable oblivion of relegation. But can the team survive the pressures on its individual members.
Not a Game for Boys
King’s Head Theatre
10th June to 5th July 7.00pm + matinees
Saturday 13th June 2015