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Sing Yer Heart Out For The Lads (Susan Elkin reviews)

Sing Yer Heart Out for the Lads
By Roy Williams.
society/company: Chichester Festival Theatre
performance date: 10 Oct 2019
venue: The Spiegeltent. Chichester Festival Theatre, Oaklands Park, Chichester, West Sussex PO19 6AP
 

Photo: Manuel Harlan

⭐⭐⭐⭐

Given the spacious grounds surrounding Chichester Festival Theatre, a short-season spiegeltent makes perfect sense. It is also an ideal setting for a visceral, powerful, topical revival of Roy Williams’s 2002 hard-hitting play. Joanna Scotcher has created a very plausible pub set within the tent in which a disparate group meet, ostensibly, to watch the October 7th 2000 football match in which England played West Germany and lost.

Actually, of course, this fine play isn’t about football at all. It’s about racial tension simmering just below – or sometimes discernibly above – the surface. And, although I’ve seen this play before (it has enjoyed a number of revivals in its 17-year history) I had forgotten how it ends and, thanks to a fine, well directed (Nicole Charles) cast I was swept away in horror by its truthfulness and inevitability.

Sian Reese-Williams is outstanding as Gina, the feisty publican strutting about trying to keep order and usually succeeding. She conveys decency and reasonableness and when, in the end, her personal world caves in she ensures that we really do suffer with her. There’s a splendid performance from Michael Hodgson as Alan too. Alan is a member of a fascist party who talks and talks making every ugly word sound hideously plausible. He never shouts and he’s very articulate. We’ve all met him.

Williams is a master of realistic dialogue and the rest of this 14 strong cast, some in quite small roles, bat insults and ideas at each other like a fast paced game of tennis (or I suppose, football), often coming together to chant or sing when the game hots up. Much of what they say to each other is deeply offensive but it rings horribly true which is where the real horror lies.

The crucial scenes in the gents are neatly staged through an upstage screen with overhead CCTV so that we can see clearly what’s going on.

This is pretty riveting, warmly recommended theatre. Get there if you can and expect to think very hard about how little has changed since 2002 on the way home.

Photo: Manuel Harlan

 
 First published by Sardines: http://www.sardinesmagazine.co.uk/reviews/review.php?REVIEW-Chichester%20Festival%20Theatre%20(professional)-Sing%20Yer%20Heart%20Out%20for%20the%20Lads&reviewsID=3729
 
 
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Susan Elkin
Susan Elkin Susan Elkin is an education journalist, author and former secondary teacher of English. She was Education and Training Editor at The Stage from 2005 - 2016
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