Friday, 19 June 2015

REVIEW - The Red Lion, National Theatre


WHAT goes on in the players' dressing room stays in the dressing room. That's the mantra of Kidd, a swaggering, ambitious bully-boy manager of a non-league football club.
He is one of the characters in Patrick Marber's new play The Red Lion which takes a swipe at the beautiful game, showing that it might not be so beautiful behind the scenes.
The play has just opened at the National's Dorfman stage and is a stunner.
It features just three people - Kidd, the manager, played by Daniel Mays, Yates (Peter Wight), the old timer "legend" of the club who now comes in to clean the kit and rising young star Jordan (Calvin Demba) who has a hidden past.
Beautifully observed it is set in a distinctly shabby and down at heel changing room of the unnamed non league team which has as its mascot a red lion.
It’s clear it is a world away from those of the premiere league clubs, those who Kidd would love to be part of. Money is tight and good players are few and far between.
Despite this, Kidd has dragged the club up from the bottom of the pile so that it is now winning matches again and as a result he likes to think of himself as the club’s saviour.
But Yates too cares deeply about the club having devoted his life to it.
So when Jordan comes into their lives he is pounced on by both men – Yates to mentor him and Kidd to make money out of.
However, Jordan refuses to play dirty. He has a secret of his own, and plays Kidd and Yates off against each other with devastating effect.
It is an incredible production, brilliantly staged and the cast of three are fantastic.
In particular, Daniel Mays puts in a blistering performance as Kidd. He is both aggressive and vulnerable, signing Jordan matters to him - not just for the club but so he can salvage some self esteem given his marriage is heading down the tubes.
Although the story is fairly predictable - the ending is inevitable and tragic for all concerned - it is gripping, sending you on a rollercoaster of emotions as well as being a fascinating insight into what goes on behind the scenes. 
The Red Lion roars.

The Red Lion is on at the Lyttelton, National Theatre, until Wednesday, September 30. Tickets from £15. Visit or call the box office on 020 7452 3000.

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