The Red Lion review at Live Theatre, Newcastle-upon-Tyne – ‘passionate and accomplished’
Football does not feel like a metaphor for life in director Max Roberts’ intense and heartfelt production of Patrick Marber’s 2015 play, The Red Lion. Though Marber may use it as such, Roberts’ production overrides these cliches. It’s a passionate staging with an accomplished cast.
In the kit room of aspiring semi-professional, northern English club, Marber pits the old-school passion of club legend turned kit man, Yates, with the underhand duplicity of bankrupt manager, Kidd.
Between them comes young prospect, Jordan, a player who both believe will save their own version of the club from the control of the boardroom.
John Bowler’s Yates is all heart – destroyed by his love for the club but returning to serve it. Though Yates speaks in earnest cliches, Bowler ensures they are founded on truth with a strongly physical performance of integrity and unusually quiet power.
Stephen Tompkinson’s fork-tongued Kidd is all blood and thunder. He lives as he would have his team play: just beyond the edges of the rules. Tompkinson takes what could – in lesser hands – descend into trite posturing and gives it a real edge.
Both use Jordan as a pawn in their long game. Dean Bone gives the younger man a canny exterior; he hides deeper flaws of greed and lack of moral fibre, along with the medical condition he masks from both men, and which will be their undoing.
Patrick Connellan’s magnificently realised white brick dressing room set, subtly lit by Drummond Orr, is suitably lacking in charm – an England in decline.