Director: Lotte Wakeham
Book &Lyrics: Ben Elton
Music: Andrew Lloyd Webber
Reviewer: Elizabeth Vile
The Beautiful Gameby Andrew Lloyd Webber and Ben Elton tells the story of Belfast in the late 60’s to the late 70’s and focusses on their under 21s football team. This passionate and charged story explores the importance of football, winning, love, loss and religion during one of Ireland’s more violent and chaotic parts of its history.
Performed in the intimate space of the Union Theatre and set on a traverse stage this production was packed with high class performances and strong solo and part singing. The live band was very effective and although it was close to the audience it did not drown out the singers who were all clear and understandable throughout. A particularly effective moment was when the company sang the reprise of ‘Let us Love in Peace’, the closeness of the singers to the audience added to the already moving and beautiful performances. ‘The Final’ was also a very impressive piece of theatre. Tim Jackson’s choreography of this song was brilliant; his ability to create the feel of a football match through dance in a confined space was amazing.
Each member of the cast had clear, believable characters but special mention needs to go to Niamh Perry as the passionate and fearless Mary and Ben Kerr as John, the shy but determined footballer. These two held the piece together and played a pivotal part in engaging the audience and making them connect with the story as a whole. Freddie Rogers as the radicalized Thomas and Will Jeffs as the drug dealing Daniel gave unsettling and edgy performances that took the edge of some of the more sugary moments.
Although a hard hitting and complicated piece there were moments of comedy and tenderness that reminded the audience that the characters were caught up in events beyond their control and were trying to do the best they could in extreme circumstances. At times some of the lyrics seemed contrived and there were not as many memorable songs as some members of the audience had expected but overall the music was engaging and sensitively performed.
This production is rooted in Irish history and strived to show the contrasting beliefs of its society and the lengths people are forced to go to because of them. A mixture of violence, passion and innocence this production will get you thinking, mourning but also hoping. No matter what happens throughout the small spark of hope is never completely extinguished.
Photo: Darren Bell
Runs until 3rd May