Ginger Hibiscus | Ginger Hibiscus | REVIEW: Marching on Together at the Old Red Lion Theatre
Ginger Hibiscus | REVIEW: Marching on Together at the Old Red Lion Theatre
Ginger Hibiscus | REVIEW: Marching on Together at the Old Red Lion Theatre
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06 Feb REVIEW: Marching on Together at the Old Red Lion Theatre

Reviewing London theatre, you see a lot. A lot of intelligent interpretations of ancient writing. A lot of brilliant musicals that have transferred from across the pond. A lot of new and exciting writing about the challenges of life, of love, and of death. But using very broad brushstrokes, the thing they have in common is that they’re predominantly written by upper middle class people for upper middle class people. Without commenting on Adam Hughes, writer, or the social stratum he inhabits, his play breaks that mould. Or rather, his play smashes that mould straight in the face.

Set in Leeds in the 1980s, Marching on Together headlines as a play about football hooliganism. Before he was banged up on a conviction for violence at a Leeds match, Macca (Adam Patrick Boakes) headed up the Service Crew, a firm that followed Leeds United FC home and away, for skirmishes with opposing firms, to fight for the badge, to defend their Leeds. Macca’s Service Crew MOT01were a firm proud of their achievements – the level of destruction they managed in smashing up a Paris stadium in 1975, of being referred to as the most violent firm in the country. But when he’s released from prison, he finds the West Yorkshire he knew and loved has moved on, along with his best friend, his wife and his son. Returning to his local, Macca also finds that a new firm now controls the place, along with a new leader, Nathan (Alex Southern), who’s barely crossed into adulthood.

Despite the unarguably divisive subject matter, Marching on Together touches on something that spans class divide, bridges the decades gone by and dissolves physical distance; the very human need to belong. To have a sense of community. To have something so precious you would defend it with your life. And whilst the more stereotypical theatregoer might not instantly recognise themself in the characters, it’s this yearning for community that’s universally relatable. But this isn’t a tabloid-esque bashing of exaggerated stereotypes; whilst we’re presented with a group of working class people on stage, being vicious to one another, we’re also presented with a group of working class people on stage, protecting and caring about one another, some of the characters just as damning of the Team as the mainstream media. And that portrayal, in itself, is refreshing.

MOT05One of the most fascinating characters is Tommy (Joshua Garwood), scarcely an adult but second in command to the new firm, a miner out on strike and struggling to make ends meet. In a breathtaking professional London debut, Garwood’s Tommy feels like someone you could know. Never the guy to start a fight, but desperate not to let anyone down, convincingly the sullen teenager eager to prove himself in the world. Which doesn’t seem very unusual at all.

With casual misogyny aplenty, and language to make your mother gasp, Marching on Together is a funny, deeply engaging look at the most violent season in football history. Carefully avoiding the “cheap thrill” of staging gratuitous brutality, the gradual destruction of the set (featuring a Margaret Thatcher dart board, from Max Dorey) is a simple yet perfect metaphor. Whether or not football is your bag, and whether or not hooliganism is something you’ve encountered, been a part of or observed from afar, it’s a play that’s fascinating, disproportionately watchable and brilliantly written. But the most amazing thing that Marching on Together achieves, is that it attracts people who would never dream of identifying as a theatregoer, into a theatre. And what more perfect a theatre than one that’s also a pub?

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Images: Tania van Amse

Star Rating

Ginger Hibiscus don’t like using stars as a headline; we think they’re too reductionist, and that decision-making based on stars misses the point of a review. Just as you wouldn’t judge a personality using a five-point scale, theatre is multi-dimensional. So have a read, and then look at the stars afterwards.
Okay, fine, but how many stars do you give it? Click here