Red Pitch @ Soho Place

Tyrell Williams’ debut Red Pitch transferred to @sohoplace theatre after two sold-out runs at the Bush Theatre …

The play is a charming and authentic portrayal of friendship, football, and what it means to grow up in social housing in modern-day Britain. With Williams drawing from his own experiences of being a young Black boy growing up on a council estate and seeing the progressive dramatic shift in demographics.

We meet Bilal (Kedar Williams-Stirling), Joey (Emeka Sesay) and Omz (Francis Lovehall), three boys on the cusp of their GCSEs. What brings them together, aside from living on the same estate, is their love for football. Each time we encounter them, they are on ‘Red Pitch‘ – the football pitch available for those living on the estate. All of them want to make it into QPR (Queen’s Park Rangers) to propel them into a football career and (supposedly) guarantee them fortune and fame.

Alongside the coming-of-age narrative, we have the depiction of gentrification and the long-standing effects of Thatcherism on state housing. The boys share starkly different views on whether this renewal is positive, or driving away their community.

l-r_Emeka Sesay (Joey), Kedar Williams-Stirling (Bilal) and Francis Lovehall (Omz) in Red_Pitch @Soho Place

Red Pitch also explores the difficulties young carers face and the issues that arise from the parentification of children. Omz (Lovehall), has to look after both his disabled granddad and his younger brother, a responsibility anyone would find difficult, let alone at sixteen. And this is the play’s exact charm. The age of these boys and the language of youth permeates throughout. During an interview, Lovehall expressed that when listening to children, one is “challenged to understand their perspective.”

Rather than being excessively verbose, Williams uses the vernacular of youth to lay out complex issues for what they are and highlight the human impact. Gentrification is not something limited to infographics and studies, it is something occurring in the lived realities of people in this country, at this very moment. And yes, while the affront of a Morely’s being turned into a Costa might seem relatively insignificant, it is changes like these that begin the exclusion of people from the communities they shaped.

Not only was I impressed by the acting and chemistry between the three actors, but certain elements of stagecraft were also impressive to behold. Daniel Bailey’s direction in the round allowed for a dynamic moment that kept me enraptured during the 90-minute runtime. Despite the ball at points being perilously close to audience members, all three actors showed their impressive skill and navigation, supported no doubt by football coach Aaron Samuel.

Red Pitch @ Soho Place – Image Credit: Helen Murray 

The lighting (Ali Hunter) was a great joy, and was key in allowing us to enter the fantasy of these boys, where at points we became football fans – their fans – rather than theatregoers. In addition, the fight (Kevin McCurdy) and movement choreography (Gabrielle Nimo) bolstered already excellent scenes and acts, from slo-mo transitions to the awkward viciousness of teenage scraps.

Surprisingly wholesome, laugh-out-loud funny, and entirely authentic, Red Pitch is one of the most charming plays I’ve seen in a long time, and I would encourage you to get your boots on and head down to @sohoplace to this strictly limited run before they blow the final whistle.

Red Pitch runs at @sohoplace theatre until the 4th May 2024.

OUT OF 100

70 %
70 %
70 %
65 %
75 %
70 %
70 %
Sound Quality
70 %
Production Design
70 %
For the Culture
80 %

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