Written in 1913, debuting in Liverpool and somewhat bizarrely ignored ever since, The Game is surely a masterclass in prediction. Writer Harold Brighouse, whose Hobson’s Choice was written two years later, created a play that sparkles with some quite beautiful writing. With Wales and Manchester City captain Billy Meredith accused of match fixing in 1905, a scandal that outstretched any other of its day, it isn’t hard to see where Brighouse drew his inspiration. What is amazing, however, is how such scandals continue to permeate through the years.
Matt Sutton, Phil Rowson and Barrie Rutter in The Game at Liverpool Playhouse Photo: Nobby Clark
Broadsides founder and self-confessed football nut Barrie Rutter sets free his enthusiasm for the sport. Not only in his role of Austin but also through some exemplary direction, although the only time the audience sees a ball move is when it accidentally drops from a bookcase in Austin’s office during a cumbersome scene change.
Phil Rowson’s Metherall gives a performance that throws the spotlight brilliantly onto those who were the real gentlemen of the game. Catherine Kinsella’s wannabe WAG, Elsie, is a delight at every turn and Wendi Peters’ sour-faced, overbearing and barbarous Mrs Metherall, despite making a short but nonetheless golden appearance, is an absolute joy. Yet it is Jos Vantyler, as the foppish Leo, who steals the show with his deadpan academic outlook on life.
The Game can be set at any time and the only mystery is why it has been relegated to the conference league of theatre for so long, when it is clearly a work of Premier League standards.
Football may be a funny old game, but Harold Brighouse’s The Game is unquestionably a funny old comedy.