The small-time semi-professional football arena; commonly known as the non-league is categorically a direct comparison to the fortunes of the camera driven professional showground. Nevertheless, what emerges when a young upstart could prove a financial success for the club? The National Theatre’s production of Patrick Marber’s new play in nine years, ‘The Red Lion’ was a comprehensively researched show about the non-league, on top of this, the performances were vividly characterised.
‘The Red Lion’ is set in the changing room at Welling United F.C. during three Saturdays, where we are introduced to tremendously enthusiastic manager, Kidd, who was once a player at the club. He has a slightly prickly reputation in the industry because of his foul mouthed approach is keen to make a lot of money on an aspiring young player. Coincidently, this plan could be materialised with youthful, Jordan who is really desperate to play football on an actual pitch as he knows that is the only way in which he can do anything with his life. Jordan is soon favoured by former club manager and trainer, Yates who soon states that he must not sign a contract if Kidd presents him with one and that he will pay him a secretive fee per game. Over the course of the performance, it seems that Kidd and Yates have a bitter rivalry with each other and that they are experiencing personal difficulties too. Yates is annoyed by Kidd’s arrogant and manipulative manner towards his players and his attitude to the game as a whole. Furthermore, when a professional club’s scout is interested in signing Jordan, Kidd lies to him about the contract and that Yates is in on the deal, which in fact he is not, this was a persuasive device to entice him to go to the try-out. However, when Jordan has a drugs test that Kidd said he should avoid, he is caught with steroids that he has been injecting into his injured knee. This causes the Football Association and the club’s board to launch an investigation; as such Kidd is suspended and as revenge he attacks Yates verbally about his past where he sent the team down and because of his wrong-doings his family left him, and he went missing for a whole year. Both Kidd and Yates do wish Jordan the very best of luck in the future and he and Kidd soon leave. At the finale, Yates prepares to take his own life by running a hot bath and electrocute himself with a scorching iron by listening to very loud speakers to block out the sound of him screaming. Marber’s narrative is very pleasing as we can see how non-league football clubs are s as calculating as the professional football leagues, also the first act does start a bit slow but it begins to flourish when the quarrels start between Kidd and Yates.
One found the performances by the company of, ‘The Red Lion’ to be stupendously portrayed through impressive voice delivery and movements. Daniel Mays is striking as serpentine club manager, Kidd; exclusively when he paces around the changing room in such a cocky manner and when he confronts Yates about swindling him with Jordan it appears that he is not that respected in the football industry. Peter Wight is wonderful as former manager and current trainer, Yates; especially how parental he is with Jordan and that the positive and appropriate approach in helping player’s confidence is to be fatherly, moreover, his suicide attempt was immeasurably shocking and upsetting to watch. Calvin Demba is grand as young wannabe footballer, Jordan; expressly where his yearning for some sort of fame and money in the game does show his wishful thinking, also his relationship with Yates is quite fascinating to observe.
Ian Rickson’s direction is delightful here as he has created a production about the relationships with the three men who have been involved in the game at different periods as well as the appeal of the show to those of both genders and of different ages. It is also good to see positive and intriguing reactions to the play as a whole. Anthony Ward’s design is glorious as the attention to detail in depicting the drabness of the non-league buildings is shown in impeccable scenic painting and build, along with this, I was instantaneously transfixed to the changing room of Welling United F.C. straightaway. Overall, the experience of, ‘The Red Lion’ was a really captivating production through the writing, acting, direction and design. Well worth it in my honest critical opinion.