It’s football transfer deadline day and Newcastle United’s Danny Walters is about to become the most expensive footballer ever transferred between two Premiership teams. He’s costing Chelsea something like £80 million but he has to get down to his new club’s training ground and have a medical before the transfer window closes but the airport is closed and Danny and his agent Rachel will have to be driven to Surrey by car – and Trevor the driver’s a rabid United fan who doesn’t want Danny to go.
That’s the basic plot of Deadline Day a new play from John Hickman and Stephen Robertson. Most of the time we’re in the car as we follow the adventures of the three as they travel down the motorway. But occasionally we cut away to a pastiche of Sky’s coverage of the big day with the three actors playing TV presenters and reporters. We also get to see Trevor’s wife and even the Chelsea manager Antonio Conte amongst others.
The three main protagonists are a little stereotypical. Danny’s the archetypal footballer who’s conflicted by the move away from the club he’s been with since he was seven, Rachel is an agent looking out for Danny’s interests but with a vested financial interest in him making the lucrative move and Trevor is a typical sexist, football fan who can’t bear the fact that his favourite player is going to another team – and a London one at that.
On one of the simplest sets I’ve ever seen – just three black folding chairs – the three actors move fluidly around the stage and although they’re supposed to be in a car, they’re not confined to it which keeps the action from being too static. Some of the dialogue is very funny especially the jokes about nobody liking Chelsea “even Chelsea players don’t like Chelsea” but I wasn’t convinced about the sub-plot concerning Trevor’s sick wife – it just didn’t ring true and I’m not sure Trevor needed the back-story to drive the plot along – his existential angst would have been enough.
Mike Yeaman brings an intensity to the part of Trevor that gives the character great strength and he portrays the confused football fan superbly. Tevye Matheson as Danny makes us empathise with what he’s going though as he contemplates a move away from family and friends. Victoria Gibson as Rachel is bristly and aggressive as she sees the deal of a lifetime and sponsorship deals with the likes of Rolex and Adidas slipping through her fingers.
In the programme notes, the producers say, “It’s a story about family, greed, the patriarchy and the lengths we go to for the ones we love”. I’m not sure they accomplish all that in just sixty minutes but even so, it’s an entertaining piece of theatre with a neat twist at the end. And you don’t have to be a football fan as I am to enjoy it. My companion who’s not interested in football said she not only enjoyed but understood the football-speak too.
So, if you’re interested in football (or even if you’re not) get down to Balham “the gateway to the south” before their deadline day of September 16th.
Review by Alan Fitter
“The thing about football – the important thing about football – is that it is not just about football” –Terry Pratchett
It’s the last day of the transfer window. United, the North East’s biggest club, have put their star player up for sale and a super rich London club have bid. You’re United’s biggest fan and the driver transporting the player down south. What do you do?
Producer: Jamie Alexander Eastlake
Director: James Callas Ball
Writers: John Hickman and Steve Robertson
Victoria Gibson, Tevye Matheson and Mike Yeaman
77 Bedford Hill, SW12 9HD
28th August to 16th September 2017