Written by Tyrell Williams, Red Pitch explores the grassroots community footy cage, home to the dreams of many young kids and teens across the world. But what happens when the community is developed beyond everyone's means?
Bilal, Joey and Oms are close friends from the neighbourhood. Meeting regularly at the local football cage, they let off steam and dream of playing for the biggest teams in the Premier League. Despite change happening all around them: the Morley's becoming a Costa, the flats being knocked down for expensive developments, and demonstrations outside the launderette, the boys focus on their dream as coach reveals the date for QPR trials.
The phenomenal cast of three, featuring: Kedar Williams-Stirling, Emeka Sesay and Francis Lovehall, are a force to be reckoned with. There isn't a rusty link in their chain as they fire cylinders left right and centre “drop, drop shoulder” chasing their dreams to play football professionally. Daniel Bailey's direction, described as “artful”, deserves a lot more credit for the complexity of the production. The storytelling transcends the stereotype and invites us to share beyond demographics.
The dynamic in the relationships of Williams' characters is astonishing. The physical nature of the young lads' banter peels away to reveal intimate layers of vulnerability that aren't usually encouraged from young men. Furthermore, Red Pitch avoids becoming a ‘toxic masculinity' trope, focussing on the real message: gentrification.
Amelia Jane Hankin's set and costume create a stunning and intimate scene, while Ali Hunter's clever lighting draws in the atmosphere of the locality and Khalil Madovi's sound design is a constant reminder of the building work of the luxury new flats.
The Independent interviewed professional footballer Eberechi Eze in 2020, who had an identical story to Red Pitch right down to the trial for QPR. The article highlights the necessity for grassroots football cages to remain open and accessible to nurture the wide range of diverse talent that will eventually go through professional club academies. Not only does the football cage provide a space to chase dreams, but it's also an environment for freedom of expression and inclusion where other spaces marginalise.
A lot of these grassroots stories emerge from impoverished estates in the South and East of London. Red Pitch is set in Camberwell, South London but could have been set in any of the countless South/East London estates struggling with poverty and resulting in gentrification. Williams' debut play shines a spotlight on those under-represented stages of talent and deserves a wider audience to understand the necessity for community originality.
It runs until 30 September.
Review: Sebastian Calver Photo: Helen Murray