Photo: Helen Murray

Tyrell Williams’ debut play, Red Pitch, previously ran at the Bush Theatre and earned an enviable number of rave reviews, picking up a series of new writing awards along the way. This week it made its West End debut at the @sohoplace theatre and it’s refreshingly different from anything else playing in central London right now.

It’s about football – which, we’ve found, generally makes for pretty compelling theatre, given the game tends to be quite dramatic anyway (especially all the behind-the-scenes shenanigans). Red Pitch tells the story of three teenagers – Omz, Bilal and Joey (played by Francis Lovehall, Kedar Williams-Stirling and Emeka Sesay respectively) – who play regularly together at a football cage on the south London estate where the trio reside. The interplay between the three is superb – passing the narrative and the banter between one another as they’d pass the ball in a game.

The show is 90 minutes straight through – so it’s shorter than an actual match, as matches have half time but there’s no interval here. The sohoplace is a perfect fit for this show: playing out in the round, the audience is transformed into a crowd cheering the boys on, and with the spotlights giving the illusion of floodlights, it really does feel like we’re watching a game when the lads are playing together.

It’s an impressive piece of theatre: for starters, all three actors are excellent. The exchanges are fast paced and these roles are physically demanding but they never falter, each turning in nuanced performances while demonstrating some impressive football skills. The writing is strong – there’s a really great sense of humour here (with plenty of more serious moments for contrast) and the dialogue feels authentic.

Something we particularly enjoyed about the show is that its key themes are subtly alluded to – they’re never spelled out too obviously. Gentrification is having an impact on these boys’ lives, which we learn by the constant building works nearby or the fact their favourite takeaway has now become a Costa Coffee. We infer that one of these boys has caring responsibilities – which has an impact on his ability to train with the others – because of the way he talks about his family.

We enjoyed our evening with Red Pitch – on the surface a show about teenagers playing football in south London might sound like it has niche appeal but many of its themes are universal and we feel it will resonate with a wide audience. It also strikes an impressive balance, where it can variously be incredibly funny, or poignant, or make an intelligent social comment. Well worth checking out.

GAY TIMES gives Red Pitch – 4/5

More information can be found here.