DramaLondonReview

Red Pitch – Bush Theatre, London

Reviewer: Chris Lilly

Writer: Tyrell Williams

Director: Daniel Bailey

In a desolate area of Inner London, located somewhat non-specifically between Peckham and Shepherd’s Bush, three teenage black boys meet up on a municipal football pitch, the Red Pitch. They banter and spar, share dreams and chocolate, sharpen their football skills in readiness for the day when a scout for a professional team spots them and carries them off to glory.

At the same time, they dread change and growing up, and never, ever, want their Ends to change. The lack of a precise location is a bit of a problem here, since the boys are deeply wedded to the chicken shops and dry-cleaners and bus-routes of their own home turf, and they don’t think South London and West London are interchangeable, though maybe the writer (Tyrell Williams) does. But Manchester United and Camberwell’s own Jadon Sancho has greater mythical significance south of the River than he does in the far West, and Jadon represents the boys’ ideal. But they revere Jadon, practice on the Red Pitch, and wait for the footballing glory they know is coming.

Kedar Williams-Stirling plays Bilal, king of the body swerve, and Francis Lovehall is his best mate Omz for whom a small patch of West London tarmac is everything. Emeka Sesay plays Joey the goalie, grounded, practical, fried chicken connoisseur. Amelia Jane Hankin has designed a glorious set for the close quarters of the Bush’s little main stage, with seats in football terracing for a quarter of the audience, and a beautifully realised players tunnel for the actors’ entrance. The direction by Daniel Bailey propels the story at a tremendous lick, the boys in perpetual motion, the stepovers and keepy-uppies impressive and appropriate. Tyrell Williams has written a piece that crackles with the language of the street, to the point where older, whiter ears might find it a bit confusing. The young, mostly black audience at the opening loved it however, which is more to the point.

The Bush is half a mile from the Queens Park Rangers stadium. In 2019 QPR renamed their stadium the Kiyan Prince Foundation Stadium, in honour of 15 year old Kiyan Prince, a member of the QPR youth team killed in a fight in 2006. The events of the play, while funny and up-beat, happen in the shadow of street crime and urban redevelopment that threatens their world and the Red Pitch. Kahlil Madovi has provided a sound design that hints at the destruction coming. It isn’t overwhelming, it is a quite delicate suggestion, but it gives the play an edge and a purpose beyond the on-stage sporting display.

Runs until 26 March 2022

The Reviews Hub Score

Fizzing, physical, footie-focussed.

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The Reviews Hub London is under the acting editorship of Richard Maguire. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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