The Red Lion

A Live Theatre Production

Saturday April 29th 2017

Starring Stephen Tomkinson, John Bowler & Dean Bone.

Written by Patrick Marber, directed by Max Roberts.

#Gadgees chose to attend this Newcastle production three quarters of the way through its critically & popularly lauded month long run and were rewarded with a tiki-taka performance of a team at the top of their game.

@gerry0504 Upon entering the auditorium this #Gadgee was immediately transported back in time by the smell of liniment drifting from the onstage changing room which served as the set in this three hander of the eponymous northern semi-pro football team.

In the programme, the cast is listed as: Yates, an old man (John Bowler); Jordan, a young man (Dean Bone); Kidd (Stephen Tomkinson), somewhere in-between; the 3 acts follow 3 Saturdays during the season.

The slow preamble with Yates, the old kit man, lovingly ironing the team shirts and hanging them on the hooks after kissing the badge sets the quasi-religious undercurrent to the piece (football as religion).

This was followed by an opening of fast & furious dialogue reminiscent of a five-a-side game as Kidd fires off a tirade about pitches, referees and Ken, the groundsman.

Marber pits the old school values of club lifer, Yates against the still vaunting ambition of dynamic & charismatic manager, Kidd, whose morals are post-Thatcher neoliberalism. Both view the emergence of Jordan, the young prodigy as a means to an end, a road to redemption : Yates with his love of the beautiful game sees him as a way to restore the former glory of his club & his reputation; Kidd very much sees a way to further his career ambitions & solve his financial problems.

Early doors, Jordan announces his christianity and refuses to countenance any cheating which Kidd, naturally, portrays as professionalism. However he has flaws too, and in concealing a secret, a previous knee injury, scuppers the transfer to a bigger club which was to be the panacea for all including the club.

The thwarted trio, united only in their love of the game are left forlorn at the end, reflecting the current state of premier league football & society in general, the only glimmer of hope comes from the youngster, Jordan, with a route back through Sunday & lower league football.

Stephen Tomkinson led the line with verve & effortless comic timing; John Bowler gave a nuanced anchorman performance which grew in stature to portray an ultimately tragic figure; playing the young football talent, Dean Bone showed the same in his chosen career, holding his own confidently in the company of his more experienced teammates.

This #Gadgee particularly liked the sparse set design & the detail : the smell of liniment, the old fella’s ‘Gola’ kit bag, & Kidd’s trilby & raincoat (a nod surely to the late great Malcom Allison). Obviously, Patrick Marber’s experience with his home town club, Lewes, informs the whole piece, providing these details but his undoubted love of the game shines through too.

Congratulations to all involved for a thoroughly entertaining evening!

@folkastro The Red Lion :

This #Gadgee approached this play with little knowledge of the script or of the players — ready to be surprised. Suffice to say it was well accomplished in production and performance.

The fantastic and uber comfortable setting of the Live Theatre in Newcastle affords an intimate and personal view of the performance from almost any seat. The theatre itself is welcoming from the warmth of the staff at the box office to the comfy bar and helpful bar staff, not to mention the wide range of drinks.

The initial stage setting is clever, starting early with Yates preparing the strips for the game with an evocative liniment smell. The plot develops with Tomkinson being well cast as Kidd the dodgy manager looking for a deal and a cut for himself, regardless of the damage it will do to the team (which he has taken towards the top of the league). The “Georgie Best” styled Jordan — was well played by Dean Bone, who was surprisingly athletic towards the end of the play as he vaulted the equipment to grab the screwriver and aim it — to demonstrate his anger with Kidd. John Bowler had the strongest script content as far as this #Gadgee was concerned, not just in the text but also in the non verbal communication; particularly in the very last scene as he is leaving the club he has given his life to, a very emotional and realistic end to the the play. Well done to all involved!

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