Writer: Robert Adams
Director: Michael Mulqueen
It’s always a delight to come across one of those “found spaces” that Red Ladder, among others, is so fond of using. Queens Mill provides a bar and a room which can be reconfigured as a studio theatre seating, maybe, 60 people, both with the original purpose of the building clearly visible.
SadlyKeeper of the Flamedoesn’t excite. Not a Red Ladder production, but with this performance staged under their aegis, it absorbs their political stance and is delivered vigorously and economically (a mere 50 minutes), but is somewhat naive and melodramatic.
Robert Adams both wrote the play and takes the single part, George Gilbert. He is being cross-questioned by an invisible interrogator, Lucas, prior to his execution in the Spanish Civil War. He takes the opportunity to look back over his life, beginning with his birth as theTitanicwent down. Orphaned and placed with an anarcho-syndicalist family in New York, his early prowess with a ball leads to a regime of goalkeeping practice and absorption of his adoptive father’s left-wing views.
Shipped back to England as his family are arrested, he goes through a sort of summary of working class experience, at every stage, on and off the football field, meeting and opposing the forces of right wing tyranny. His works team beat the Wanderers (a bit late in the day for them, but echoes of the exploits of Darwen and West Auckland), he signs for Huddersfield Town, then a great power in the land, plays for England against Fascist Italy (the infamous match against Germany where England gave the Fascist salute an obvious inspiration), marries, becomes involved with terrorists, finds his wife has left him, confronts an old Fascist opponent at the Battle of Cable Street, and ends up in Spain.
Adams delivers all this vigorously, switching from character to character, backed up by periodic sound effects (gunfire, explosions) and sudden lighting changes. His goalkeeping feats are conveyed acrobatically, though he does seem to face a remarkable number of penalties! Ultimately it’s all skilfully performed and reasonably engaging.