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Marching on Together

A London fringe production about warring Leeds football hooligans in the 1980s has the potential to be uncomfortably inauthentic, but such fears are short-lived, as the era’s hits including Come on Eileen and Two Tribes thunder through the darkness, the lights flash on and two men meeting in a pub are introduced.

Both the dialogue and the dispositions of the men are spectacularly well-observed, from the awkwardness of meeting after an interval of three years to their obviously deep-rooted but emotionally repressed friendship.

Their pub talk and pointless posturing is incredibly realistic, and the actors do a convincing job of capturing the accent.

The corrugated iron set provides a great deal of atmosphere, as well as visual impact – clashes with hooligans from rival teams are signified by the actors smashing chairs and tables into the walls and generally making a racket. In such an intimate space, the effect is realistic and intimidating, as is the continual threat of violence, which is mostly implied rather than overt.

With shades of Brassed Off and Trainspotting in its tone, the feelings of desperation and social impotence are poignantly brought to life. Adam Patrick Boakes delivers an impressively rounded performance as Macca, while Jim Mannering’s Jono is equally believable – is he a concerned friend or a self-serving hypocrite?

In a cast of just five, Alex Southern stands out as the aggressive yet charismatic Nathan. Completely unconcerned with consequences and always ready with a witty comeback, his unpredictability provides an enticingly sharp edge to an already spiky story.

Verdict: An intimidating and authentic atmosphere is evoked in a well-observed examination of a group of 1980s Leeds football hooligans

Catherine Usher

  • Old Red Lion Theatre, London
  • February 3-28, PN February 5
  • Author: Adam Hughes
  • Director: Joshua McTaggart
  • Design: Max Dorey set, Elliot Griggs lighting, George Lumkin sound
  • Technical: Maja Ehliar stage manager, Scott Handly production manager, Will Newman construction, Sarah Milton casting director
  • Cast includes: Adam Patrick Boakes, Jim Mannering, Joshua Garwood, Donna Preston, Alex Southern
  • Producer: BackHere!
  • Running time: 2hrs
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