DramaLondonReview

Hand of God – Hope Theatre, London

Reviewer: Stephen Bates

Writer: Sam Butters

Directors: Charlie Derrar and Joseph Siddle

The legendary manager Bill Shankly famously said: “Some people think football is a matter of life and death. I assure you it’s much more serious than that”. The quote springs to mind while hearing Kieron, the central figure of Sam Butters’ 65-minute play Hand of God, describe how the game reaches into every corner of his daily existence.

The play, set in the heart of the Black Country, is transplanted by Tectum Theatre to this pub theatre, which is little more than a long goal kick from Arsenal’s stadium. Kieron (played by Butters himself) supports West Bromwich Albion in the professional game and plays irregularly for Blackheath Town in a local five-a-side league. In frustration, he forms a breakaway team, Dyslexia Untied, recruiting drug dealers to fill the remaining four places.

This show is no Hamilton, but it borrows from the hit musical’s trick of using hip-hop to develop a narrative. Music, garage in style, is composed by Charlie O’Connor, who performs frantically as the DJ and also comes on as substitute for the first team. Co-directors Charlie Derrar and Joseph Siddle keep the production close to boiling point and also provide lyrics.

The play makes only passing references to Diego Maradonna, to whom its title alludes, but draws on the natural humour that is ingrained in football and its followers. However, Butters is at his strongest, both as writer and actor, when focussing on the serious issues of drug abuse and the strained relationship between Kieron and his father. For long periods, the pathos is suppressed, making it all the more powerful when it is finally unleashed.

Hand of God shows a genuine understanding of the role played by football in shaping otherwise ordinary lives and in strengthening cross-generational bonds. So, the critical question is whether Butters’ modest offering is sufficiently on the ball to lure audiences away from the women’s game on their television screens on sweltering July evenings. The short answer must be that it just about is.

Runs until 29 July 2022

The Reviews Hub Score

On the ball

Show More

Related Articles

Back to top button