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Total Football – Unity Theatre, Liverpool

Writers: Jon Haynes and David Woods

Reviewer: Tim Stone



“More Beckett than Beckham” Total Football” describes itself.

Beginning at a seminar (in Salisbury) on Britain, the only member of the audience begins to question the national identity of the British with the speaker (a supporter of The Arsenal) in an amusing question and answers session around the subject of race and nationality (Jon Haynes and David Woods). The play then goes on a madcap hour journey, backwards and forwards in time surrounding the build up of the GB Olympic football team and the efforts of some individuals to create a national identity using this sport while numerous problems occur such as the FAs of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland not wishing their players to participate in the Team; the principle official lacking knowledge, interest and passion with all sports (except maybe tennis) while also not knowing the offside rules; and the loss of Sir Alex Ferguson as the GB football team manager.

The play’s content is amusing and there are a number of well worked jokes (“twenty two millionaires ruining a lawn”) and situations, but overall the play lacked depth. The chuckles came regularly from the partisan audience but went no further; and did not fall into belly laughs at any stage. The characters were excellently played by Haynes and Woods including the creepy head of the Government Department, Brian Messenger; the man in grey with his personal fertility problems and no sporting enthusiasm striving for a grade seven position and an Albanian cleaner with a notebook of ‘British’ sayings and poems. However, at times the play became confusing as to who was playing which part; a chair leaving the stage was not a big enough indication for a change of character; while once or twice the accents of the characters were hard to understand and the play difficult to follow.

The play was enhanced by clever and the effective use of lighting (Mischa Twitchin) and highlights how visual comedy can work just as well as verbal, while the stage was bland (George Tomlinson), which became apparent why, later on (in what should have been the climax of the show)… well worth a visit for the surprise.

Overall though the play never digs deep enough and attacks Britishness on too many fronts; possibly if it had been totally about football it would have been a greater success; as it was, it was more Beckham than Beckett…


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