Home » London Theatre Reviews » Red Pitch by Tyrell Williams at the Bush Theatre | Review

Red Pitch by Tyrell Williams at the Bush Theatre | Review

There are plays out there that in recent years have tried to portray teenage life in Britain today authentically, but the dialogue strongly suggests that an older writer and/or creative team is trying so hard to make their production come across as young and trendy that they ultimately fail, like a drunk person who tries to make themselves sound sober, but in doing so over-enunciates everything such that it is all the more obvious they are under the influence. Red Pitch is not one of them.

Kedar Williams-Stirling (Bilal) in 'Red Pitch' at Bush Theatre (Photo by Craig Fuller).What made this script (Tyrell Williams) sound genuine, for all the ‘bros’ and ‘bruvs’ exchanged between three teenage lads, Bilal (Kedar Williams-Stirling), Joey (Emeka Seasay) and Omz (Francis Lovehall), is the attention to detail, down to GCSE predicted grades being ‘six’ or ‘seven’, as part of the new grade scale which was gradually implemented from 2017 to 2020. Nobody gets an A-star anymore, at least not in England.

Football is the backdrop to a broad-ranging narrative that is as much about the gentrification of the characters’ neighbourhood in south London as it is about the goals (pun acknowledged but not intended) and aspirations of the youngsters. As it turns out, they have all been put forward by their coach for football trials: for the uninitiated (or, like me, the disinterested), this involves scouts employed by professional football clubs coming to watch children play. Anyone deemed good enough gets ‘scouted’, that is, introduced to the scout from whichever club it is who will explain what happens next – an invitation to a club trial, for instance, or an offer to join that club’s football academy. Competition, as even I can reasonably imagine, is very high.

Joey talks of having ‘Plan B’, which sounds like that recent Government initiative, however benign, to limit the spread of coronavirus. Anyway, his backup strategy, if I heard it correctly, is to join the buy to let market – the salient point being that dreaming of being a Premier League footballer cannot and should not be the only thing the boys should work towards. The intelligent and intelligible script invariably contains doses of coarse language, but it is far removed from the ‘eff, cee and effing cee’ type of conversations south London working class boys might be expected by some to indulge in.

There are several punchlines that brought the house down on press night – all of which, alas, would be giving too much away if regurgitated here. But the use of humour is skilful and credible, laced as it is with sarcasm and sometimes brutal putdowns. The boys say sorry without actually saying the word ‘sorry’. The production has a fight director (Kev McCurdy) for a reason, and the audible gasps from the audience are all the evidence required to vouch for quite how realistic the body blows come across. It also makes the curtain call extra special – the audience is assured that no actors have actually sustained injuries.

The pace is rapid and fluid, a reflection, I suppose, of vibrant youth. With an actual football in play on stage, in an in-the-round – or, to be precise, in-the-rectangle – audience seating arrangement – the production does well to portray football as a force for good. It remains unclear whether the trio will stay as closely knit into the future as they were in the timeline of the play. Engrossing and uncompromising, this show highlights some very pertinent socio-economic issues affecting Londoners, without ever being preachy or indulging in party politics. Worth seeing.

4 stars

Review by Chris Omaweng

Three lifelong friends Omz, Bilal, and Joey are playing football. Like they always have. Living out dreams of football stardom. Beyond their football pitch, local shops are closing, old flats are being demolished as new flats shoot up, some residents struggle to stay while others rush to leave. When a small football pitch has been a home from home, a place you’ve laughed, fought, and forged friendships, what happens when it’s under threat?

A Bush Theatre Production
RED PITCH
Written by Tyrell Williams
Directed by Daniel Bailey
Cast – Kedar Williams-Stirling, Emeka Sesay, and Francis Lovehall
16 February – 26 March 2022
https://www.bushtheatre.co.uk/

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