Review: ‘Marching on Together’ at the Old Red Lion Theatre
This month the world premiere of Adam Hughes’ Marching on Together comes to the Old Red Lion. The 23-year-old writer from Leeds recounts the glory days of hooliganism in England through the eyes of Macca, played by Adam Patrick Boakes, and his environment
The recent history of the football hooliganism of the Eighties serves as the backdrop to this story. The title, Marching on Together is taken from the anthem of Leeds United F.C., the song is a reminder of the plot and most people will be familiar with the chants of “LEEDS, LEEDS, LEEDS”.
After serving three years in prison, Leeds United Serving Crew ex-leader Macca returns back home. Adam Patrick Boakes vividly portrays the struggle of settling back into normal life and how gender stereotypes and social abandonment play their part in obsessing over a team.
Director Joshua McTaggart reminds us that a play doesn’t need much symbolism to get the audience engaged and thinking. The whole stage feels like watching a scene out of everyday life and the props are exactly that – everyday things that are there to be functional, not to represent something, and that make the play so accessible.
Even though most of the audience probably does not have first-hand experience of the hooligan way of life, we’re offered plenty of aspects to relate to, such as the proximity to reality. The characters aren’t tightly framed or overly exaggerated but are acted very naturally – the play lacks any attempts at monologue or deep explorations of character.
Thus the cast is left to create an immense space for interpretation and own opinion – the way the viewer experiences the characters is similar to eavesdropping on a conversation between strangers on the bus.
But that doesn’t mean the performance is quiet – on the contrary, the audience is kept on the edge of their seats. Not least with the eardrum-blasting volume of Eighties hits and the clashes between hooligans, which also set the fierce tone.
Donna Preston, as the protagonist’s girlfriend Linda, shows that it doesn’t need many words to communicate a character and Joshua Garwood as Tommy, a young Leeds fanatic, convincingly plays an insecure teenager looking for a role model.
The theme isn’t a new one, but the play is a recollection of predominant issues and headlines throughout the Seventies and Eighties, such as the escalation at the 1975 European Cup final in Paris.
As Hughes told the Yorkshire Evening Post: “Many of the people in our audience will have been at the sharp end of the troubled decade that was the 1980s and it is them I am trying to speak to.”
You can catch Marching On Together at the Old Red Lion Theatre until February 28 . Tickets cost £13 (Concession £10)