Red Pitch get its well-deserved transfer into the West End from a hugely successful run at the Bush Theatre. As the title implies this important play takes place on the ‘red pitch’ a marked-out football play area within a housing estate in South London under threat of disappearing as the estate is redeveloped and the families moved out.

It follows three friends Bilal, Joey and Omz whose very existence is held together by the games that they play on the pitch. But these are more than just kick-arounds. Here the boys can talk about personal stuff as they train in their created safe environment. All three are desperate to find ways to be successful and get signed up to play professionally. Inevitably this passion is what nearly drives them apart, as they can’t all get that break.

This is a beautifully crafted piece of writing and staging. This very life is something so close to writer Tyrell Williams and director Daniel Bailey informative years, that it gives the play such truth and heart. The language and the journeys the characters go through are very real and when they explode, and lay into each other, the ensuing fight is one of the most real staged brawls ever. There is so much to like about the decisions made here. The way that the red pith has its own hard kept rules, even down to tapping out on the railings every time they leave the pitch.

The casting of Kedar Williams-Stirling, Emeka Sesay and Francis Lovehall is so on point.
Each has a different physicality and delivery style that is a joy to experience, and their switches from playful banter to heart felt silences and then loss is wonderful to watch.

The clever lighting and sound that creates the passages in time between the scenes is as much part of the storytelling as the action of the play. Ali Hunter’s bold lighting always coming up with new angles to take these moments and combined with Dickson Mbi and Gabrielle Nimo’s soccer-based movement takes us from the humble pitch to the stadiums in the ‘dreaming minds’ of the boys. Combined with Khalil Madovi’s evocative sounds of play that then transform into the grinding of banging of demolition and redevelopment reminds the audience of what is happening just outside the safety of the pitch.

This is much more that a play about three boys and football. It has a truth about the struggles to achieve things in life when the odds are truly stacked against you. This is a 90-minute play that achieves its goals and scores highly.

Photo credit: Helen Murray