Nov 09

The Red Lion by Patrick Marber : A brilliant theatre review by Paul Vates

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at Trafalgar Studios, London


“Worthy of a roar of approval…”


The lady sitting next to me admitted that she knows nothing about football. I support Leeds United, so it could be said that I don’t either. But knowledge of the game is not required in this stunning play by Patrick Marber.


Set in the changing room of RLFC, a very low non-league club struggling with survival on a daily basis, it opens with ex-hero, now the kit-man, physio and mentor, Yates, hanging up the shirts in preparation for the game that is only a few hours away. He is methodical and proud, kissing the badge of every shirt. John Bowler plays Yates with a distant look, as though he can still hear the crowd calling his name, pondering where the years have gone and when the stiffness and aches arrived.


The Red Lion, Trafalgar Studios – John Bowler (courtesy of Mark Douet) –


Yates’ subtle reverie at the altar is interrupted by the maelstrom that is the manager, Kidd – a whirlwind of nervous energy and bitterness. Stephen Tompkinson shines in the part, grabbing the character and thrusting upon everyone his ambitions of success, whether or not they ask for them. He is arrogant and angry, the kind of man who is going places but always quick to blame others for his own faults.

The Red Lion, Trafalgar Studios – John Bowler and Stephen Tompkinson (courtesy of Mark Douet) –



Enter the new lad, young Jordan, played by Dean Bone. He’s a rising star and potentially worth money for everyone. But, like everything that is business, it is dirty and back-stabbing. Jordan is played with a grand mixture of innocence and violence – a small player with big dreams.


The play has no interval, lasting 95 minutes – the length of your average football match. The characters attack and defend each other. They seamlessly pass the mood, stylishly producing high comedy as well as magnificent drama, as they tumble out of control towards the inevitable final whistle.

The Red Lion, Trafalgar Studios – Dean Bone and Stephen Tompkinson (courtesy of Mark Douet)

Marber is too good a writer for the play to be solely about football. It is much more than that, just as the three actors create a depth that is worthy of a roar of approval from the stand. First produced in Newcastle at the Live Theatre, Max Roberts’ production travels well and, even though this could be classed as an away fixture, it looks like the team will win.


The Red Lion, Trafalgar Studios – Stephen Tompkinson, Dean Bone and John Bowler (courtesy of Mark Douet)





Performances until 2nd December 2017

Monday to Saturday at 7.45pm – Thursday and Saturday Matinees at 3pm


Producer         Live Theatre and Trish Wadley

Director           Max Roberts

Designer         Patrick Connellan

Photographer  Mark Douet


Theatre           Trafalgar Studios, 14 Whitehall, London SW1A 2DY

Tickets            From £19.50 to £39.50, via Theatre Box Office and www.atgtickets.com


Twitter             @theredlionplay, @TrafStudios, #theredlionplay

Facebook        /theredlionplay

Instagram       @theredlionplay