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On the Bench
Published on Sunday, 21 August 2011

3 stars

C venues - C aquila (venue website)
4-15, 17-29 Aug, 8:30pm-9:20pm
Reviewed by Liv Watson

 Recommended for age 12+ only.

The hyper-masculine world of professional football as it appears on the covers of Grazia and Hello is probably one that many prefer to avoid – or at least view from a safe distance. Not so the five twenty-something actresses of Class Stage Productions, who brave the testosterone-charged environment of the changing rooms of a fictional Premier League football team to produce a lively, foul-mouthed portrayal of a team of paparazzi-hounded professional footballers.

The plot revolves around the shared trials and tribulations of the team, and the cast work well together to convey a strong sense of camaraderie throughout the performance. This is all the more commendable given the wide range of personalities existing among the team, which consist of stereotypes ranging from the ‘one-with-the-brains’ to the quick-tempered French Romeo, who repeatedly seduces the wives of his teammates. The various accents of the characters lend the performance extra comic effect, with the cast giving a strong performance without exception.

The stereotypical nature of the characters is in line with a production that intentionally pokes fun at itself and the bawdy world that its characters inhabit. However, though amusing and possibly accurate, the portrayal of the footballers in this way is less convincing in the final moments of the performance, which see the characters tired and disillusioned, and add to the plot a layer of realism that until then has been absent. Whilst this change gives the lives of the characters an added dimension, the footballers are lovable precisely because of their extravagant superficiality: the change in tone at the end of the play seems superfluous, and though it is performed competently, the cast are at their best in earlier scenes.

The lack of props and the presence of all five characters on stage for the majority of the performance lends the play a claustrophobic feel, something compounded by the jostling of the characters as they seek to be the centre of attention on stage. This balances out the superficially jocular relationship between the footballers at the beginning of the play, and gives rise to a tension that preempts the change in tone of the show’s final scenes.

The play is an amusing parody of the ludicrous behaviour of professional footballers, made all the more effective with an all-female cast that invites the audience to dwell on the faux-macho behaviour of the characters. As a glance at the circus-like world of overpaid footballers, the play is witty, apt and light-hearted. As an investigation into the idolisation of celebrities and the problems revolving around privacy and the paparazzi, however, it misses the mark.

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