DramaNorth WestReview

The Spine – Unity Theatre, Liverpool

Reviewer: Abbie Rippon

Writer/Director: Nathan Powell

‘We’re the spine of this team!’

20 Stories High have come together with Liverpool’s Unity Theatre and writer Nathan Powell to produce an energetic and engaging piece of theatre exploring the world of the football academy. In a society where the Premier League connotes a world of celebrity lifestyles and financial stability – often the young players seeing themselves as set for life. The aspirations, along with the pressure to achieve success, can be immense.

Nathan Powell’s three-hander explores the impact football academies have on both the players and their families. The 65-minute play focuses on the masculine pride and macho exterior many feel the need to put on in order to survive in such a competitive environment. Additionally, it touches on themes of racism in football and the personal pressures faced by many young players, and young people in general.

Cleverly put together and staged using Kirsty Barlow’s well-conceived design, The Spine follows the journey of three young players both on and off the pitch. Tristan Waterson, Keith Rice and Malachi Pullar-Latchman play our three academy hopefuls Kyle, Liam and Hakeem. The three young players see themselves like three musketeers, the indestructible spine of the academy team. The actors work seamlessly together throughout the performance. Their unceasing energy from curtain up to curtain down is commendable and their on-stage relationship plays a huge part in what makes this production work. Their timing is quick, the scene transitions slick and the actors’ characterisation, while full of youthful exuberance is also subtle and thoughtful when it comes to the more serious and touching moments in the production.

The writing is reminiscent of John Godber’s classic Up ‘n’ Under, it is fun and fearless, effectively using multi-roleplay to tell the story. Despite having a similar vivacious energy to Godber’s work this play is clearly not an imitation of the Yorkshire writer – it is refreshingly unique.

Despite being a play which centre’s around football, you don’t have to be a fan of the beautiful game to watch and enjoy it. 20 Stories High are touring a relevant and thought-provoking piece highlighting the highs and all to frequent lows of a world where success feels just within reach but might be torn away without warning.

Heading to the Unity Theatre to watch a play about football might not be the most traditional way to spend your Valentine’s weekend, but it will leave you enlightened and most definitely entertained.

Touring until 29 February 2020

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The North West team is under the editorship of John McRoberts. 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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