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Fever Pitch
Published on Thursday, 03 May 2012

5 stars

Komedia (venue website)
1 May, 8:00pm-10:15pm
Reviewed by Catherine Meek

 Suitable for age 15+ only.
 Warning: Contains strong language.

There’s more to Fever Pitch than football! I’ll nail my colours to the mast right now: I’m not an Arsenal fan. I’m not even a football fan. But I do know a brilliant piece of theatre when I see it. James Kermack’s solo performance is utterly magnificent - for 90 minutes (45 each way!), he held the entire audience as though in the palm of his hand.

5 stars

It’s wicked entertainment, but it’s also a provocative script – a very clever and often-funny exploration of a boy’s rites of passage through childhood, adolescence, and university, only to be finally faced with the question, whatever next? For Nick Hornby, the author of the original book, the next step was to get stuck in a rubbish job while trying to work that out, ending up in therapy for depression and an unhealthy interest in Arsenal. It’s not an unfamiliar story, and it’s one which gives more of an insight into the phenomenon of football than any footage of the terraces ever will.

Kermack owns an extraordinary talent. He draws us in to his cute-boy’s world, then disrupts our comfort in an instant – seemingly becoming someone else, possessed, before our very eyes. The first time he does this is right at the beginning: he goes ballistic, jumping up and down, arms flailing, roaring from the pit of his hairy stomach (on show to everyone as he pulls his T-shirt up over his head and struts up and down). There’s a threatening side to it – a hint of the hooligan – and it’s easy to see how he might come, blinded, to blows in the stands. Insightfully, when he quietens down, he says something like, “It’s all in there, it has to find a way out.”

To witness this isolated display is one thing; Kermack’s lack of inhibition before a sea of quiet bystanders is enviable. But to imagine it multiplied up by a match-day crowd is to see that, sometimes, it’s just a big group of lads who have more inside them than they know what to do with, or are given credit for. And there’s no way of knowing what will catch the attention of a waiting mind – perhaps Nick Hornby himself might never have gone to a match, if a different Saturday-afternoon outing with his dad had captured his imagination first.

Hodson’s intention is to bring theatre to football fans, whose experience might be limited to pantomime or a compulsory school trip to see a Shakespeare play. Concessionary tickets were available for Albion supporters, presumed to fit this description. Yet for all its fun, this show has an important role, and its reach is potentially way wider still – not least to those theatre-lovers who might expect it wouldn’t be for them. I’m speaking to the girls now: if your man is mad for football, go and see this play. Chances are, you’ll learn something you never knew about him all these years.

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These are archived reviews of shows from Brighton 2012.  We keep our archives online as a courtesy to performers, and for readers who'd like to research previous years' reviews.