theSpace @ Surgeons Hall (Venue 53)
Monday 7th August 20.00
Full review to follow
Those of us that grew up as football fans in the late 80s were all too aware of the Hillsborough disaster in 1989 which led to monumental changes in the way football is viewed (literally) in this country. The aftermath in which Liverpool supporters were vilified led to an outcry from the people of Liverpool, particularly the families of those that lost their lives and only in the last 18 months has their long search for ‘Justice for the 96’ seemingly been rewarded.
It is therefore timely that Gritty Theatre bring Luke Barnes’ one man play to Surgeons Hall, a tale of Greg (Dominic Thompson)
growing up, newly teenage, in a one parent family in Liverpool in the late 1980s. Greg lives with his father as his mother has
run off with a man from a posh estate (“Fuck her”). Thompson plays Greg with – for me - an energy unmatched across this
year’s Fringe bounding about the stage as any 13 year old might. He is desperate to go to the FA Cup semi-final at Hillsborough
so that he might get a glimpse of John Barnes and his other footballing heroes.
We see Greg with his schoolmates, egging him on to have sex with a girl, failing fairly miserably, all the while raging against
his mother and railing against his father. Thompson also provides the voices for Greg’s father and best friend, technically
just a slightly lower and higher version of the scouse accent he is already using and there is a danger that these sometimes
slip into caricature although the performance is solid. We get the idea that as a child of that age you can and will rail and
rage against anything ultimately leading to an encounter with the Police who are also very familiar with Greg’s father further
explaining where Greg finds himself. There is a lot of scene setting and the opening half of the show is perhaps a little slow
before we arrive at Hillsborough.
For those of us in the audience that remember the disaster the scene at the football ground is done particularly well with excellent use of the main prop on stage giving a feeling of claustrophobia and contortion and Thompson is especially effective during this scene. In the fallout from the disaster there is perhaps a chance for the piece to become much more sombre and reflective but Thompson is still like a ball of energy when perhaps it might be reeled in slightly.
Given the timing and the news surrounding the disaster this is a timely reminder of a system that was set against the victims and treated them appallingly. The play might not be for everyone but anyone who remembers the disaster and the impact it had on football in this country should give this a look.