Not a Game for Boys
Putting his serious hat on, actor and comedian Bobby Davro headlines this revival of Simon Block’s 1995 play – and puts in a good showing. But the real star of this production, performance-wise, is Alan Drake.
Davro, Drake and Oliver Joel are Eric, Oscar and Tony – three north London cabbies who meet once a week to play in a local table-tennis league. During the course of a high-stakes match in which they face relegation, we watch their relationships – and lives – unravel.
Block’s play, first staged at the Royal Court, uses ping-pong to explore how three men effectively bury their heads in the sand, ignoring problems at home and trying to escape loneliness through bluster and big talk. Melancholy ripples through some sharply funny lines.
The thrust staging of Jason Lawson’s production brings us up close to the sweat and fractured banter of the three men, although the thumping club music between scenes – while suggestive of the men’s fare-filled working nights – is more distracting than atmospheric.
Some scenes tread water, and talk of lads’ mags feels dated now. But Block captures a haunting sense of squandered life in dialogue that rolls with everyday regret – particularly in a standout moment in which Oscar recounts his endless TV-dinner evenings.
Throughout, Drake makes the most of least. He finds a stingingly sad emptiness in Oscar, a man lacking even the domestic strife of his team-mates. While Davro brings charisma, comic-timing and surprising grit to the role of bullying team captain Eric, Drake hits us hardest.
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