Writer: Nick Hornby
Adapter and Director: Paul Hodson
Reviewer: Mary Tapper
The Public Reviews Rating:
Fever Pitch is well known as a book written by Nick Hornby, later turned into a film of the same name. It tells the story of a young man growing up in the 70s and how his fanatical support of Arsenal shapes his choices and dreams in life. It is about how supporting a club can influence every aspect of day-to-day life and how obsession impacts on relationships and general well being. The play starts with our character’s first match, the FA cup final against Swindon in 1969, and ends with the famous Arsenal win of May 26th 1989.
James Kermack does a good job with his limited resources. The set consists of red and white lengths of material draped down from the top of the stage, one decorated with the face of Charlie George, another with that of Liam Brady, a third with the traditional Gun emblem. A small metal stand has been constructed towards the rear of an otherwise bare stage. Kermack is full of energy darting from side to side, lit by spotlights, interacting with other characters that exist for us only in his imagination. Sometimes he will voice another character; his mother, his girlfriend, another Arsenal fan, sometimes we are left with him talking to just an empty space, providing one side of the two-way conversation. At all times this is easy to follow and quite well done. However at times the format becomes a little jaded and the material feels old and dated. The audience, whilst chuckling indulgently at times, remain unstirred by the performance. It is cosy, comforting, reliable, stirring up memories of the time but failing to really draw us into caring overmuch about the main character. Young children, brought along with keen parents, enthusiastic in their replica kit shirts, look slightly baffled throughout.
Kermack himself delivers the script well, with the audience able to hear every line. He is at his strongest when the play becomes most dramatic, in the dream/nightmare sequences, and he is able to add urgency to the material. He also has a lovely easy way with the audience and interaction is always rewarded, despite being sparing used. However, the play itself seems strangely muted and not really moving or rib achingly funny. It fails to capture our imagination so we are left asking how this play improves on either the book or film.
In the end this feels like a rather dull 0-0 draw on a grey autumn day; the teams toil away for 90 minutes but no one has that spark of genius to break down the defence and score.
Touring until 20th Oct