Home » London Theatre Reviews » Red Pitch By Tyrell Williams @sohoplace | Review

Red Pitch By Tyrell Williams @sohoplace | Review

Charming, athletically spectacular and funny, this one-act play has many crowd-pleasing aspects but is not ground-breaking drama.

Red Pitch. Emeka Sesay (Joey). Credit - Helen Murray.
Red Pitch. Emeka Sesay (Joey). Credit – Helen Murray.

Like a really good telly pilot, Red Pitch builds a specific world – the gentrifying estates of Southwark where Morley’s chicken shop has been replaced with a Costa coffee shop – and introduces us to three teenage boys preparing for their GCSEs whilst they dream and sweat hard for the potentially attainable goal of football glory. These boys, Bilal (Kedar Williams-Stirling), Joey (Emeka Sesay ) and Omz ( Francis Lovehall) meet at the community pitch and speak incessantly of their heroes, techniques and competitive athletic strengths. It is feasible that any one of them might just make it to the next stage of pro football recruitment – they are dreamers but not fantasists. But the length of the odds of getting into the pro leagues is an ever-present spectre.

At press night, the audience seemed both enthralled by the play and in thrall of the performers. For those longing for representation of young Black men in a simple coming-of-age friendship story – in which there are naturally problems but not relentless trauma – Tyrell William’s three-hander delivers. The dialogue is quickfire and the chemistry between the cast is palpable. Seeing as the characters spend the majority of their time on stage playing football, there is no skimping on the sporting skills on display with each of the actors impressively athletic – giving an extra degree of grace and cheerfulness to the proceedings. The same grace makes its way to a playful dance sequence as well as a fight scene both brilliantly choreographed and enacted by Gabrielle Nimo and Kev McCurdy, respectively.

However, the play’s programme rather gives away the self-consciousness of this work. It is a simple story about three childhood friends with talent growing up in a changing world and, just like in A Chorus Line or any other ‘face the reality of big dreams with near impossible competition’ story it can lean towards the sentimental but there are those who will love it. Despite all its physicality and a run-time of only 90 minutes, William’s script is surprisingly talky. There are elements of theatrical business that are hilarious and the cast’s comic timing is as impressive as their footwork. But, perhaps with its decided focus on authenticity, this slice-of-live story isn’t that interesting when you take away the pleasure of watching three athletes moving. The three teenagers are interested in sport, girls and in achieving their goals. They have traditions of banter between them that are well-observed but don’t feel complete as a theatrical experience. Williams’s script spends nearly an hour on world-building and exposition before any inciting event happens. Once the story begins, it can veer into some dialogue with a vaguely saccharine public service announcement tone to it – which is a pity because it starts to lose the charm the preceding character study spent so much time building. Not dissimilar to Bailey’s production of The High Table at the Bush, this work has a tendency to be built on the bones of a ‘problem play’ rather than as original dramatic exploration. But, it’s spectacular in its movement and pleasing in its comedy.

Football aficionados or those who want an angst-light coming-of-age story that captures a particular and recognisable moment in time will probably enjoy Red Pitch. The cast are impressive (although of course much older than the teenagers they depict). There is a considerable spectacle in the production values of this show – just don’t expect a transformative theatrical experience.

3 Star Review

Review by Mary Beer

The award-winning play about brotherhood, ambition, girls, community, and what it really means to belong.​ ​What happens when your football pitch, a place you’ve laughed, fought, and forged friendships – the very existence of your close-knit community – is threatened by impending demolition? Can lifelong friends continue to dream of stardom, or will their goals be torn down alongside their home?​

The West End transfer of the Bush Theatre production
By Tyrell Williams
Directed by Daniel Bailey
Starring Francis Lovehall, Emeka Sesay and Kedar Williams-Stirling

Set and Costume Designer Amelia Hankin
Lighting Designer Ali Hunter
Sound Designer/Composer Khalil Madovi
Movement Director Dickson Mbi
Casting Director Heather Basten CDG
Fight Director Kev McCurdy
Vocal Coach Gurkian Kaur
Football Consultant Aaron Samuel

Until Saturday 4 May 2024
4 Soho Place, London, W1D 3BG

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  • Mary Beer

    Mary graduated with a cum laude degree in Theatre from Columbia University’s Barnard College in New York City. In addition to directing and stage managing several productions off-Broadway, Mary was awarded the Helen Prince Memorial Prize in Dramatic Composition for her play Subway Fare whilst in New York. Relocating to London, Mary has worked in the creative sector, mostly in television broadcast and production, since 1998. Her creative and strategic abilities in TV promotion, marketing and design have been recognised with over 20 industry awards including several Global Promax Golds. She is a founder member of multiple creative industry and arts organisations and has frequently served as an advisor to the Edinburgh International TV Festival.

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