Tuesday, May 28

Red Pitch – Soho Place

For Tyrell Williams’s Red Pitch, making its West End debut at Soho Place after two sold-out runs at the Bush Theatre, it’s not a case of ‘third time’s the charm’, but rather ‘third time’s an even bigger charm’.

A story about the friendship between London-based, football-obsessed teenagers Bilal (Kedar Williams-Stirling), Joey (Emeka Sesay), and Omz (Francis Lovehall), Tyrell Williams was inspired to write Red Pitch after passing by his childhood football pitch to find it had been demolished and replaced with unoccupied housing.

All the action is set at the titular ‘red pitch’, where the three friends play football together and dream of professional superstardom. But the pitch plays a much bigger role for the trio than simply providing a space to indulge in their favourite hobby.

The pitch is where they navigate life’s challenges, whether that’s Omz dealing with the weight of caring for his grandad or Bilal confronting pressure from his father, but also where they can have a laugh about girls, parties, or who gets to tuck into the box of chips from Morley’s.

There’s no main character in Red Pitch: it’s a true ensemble cast where all three characters have their own arc and distinctive traits, and each actor takes advantage of every syllable of Williams’s phenomenal script. It’s incredibly refreshing to watch a show about teenagers from London that actually sounds like how teenagers from London speak, and every joke and cultural reference lands with huge impact.

Photo: Helen Murray

Beyond the impeccable material, it’s the way in which the three boys interact with each other that makes you realise just how special Red Pitch is. With Daniel Bailey’s direction working in mesmerising tandem with the script, every look, laugh, and playful tease shared between Bilal, Joey, and Omz made me fall in love with their friendship even more — the chemistry between Williams-Stirling, Sesay, and Lovehall is truly second-to-none.

And what a joy it is to see Red Pitch at Soho Place, a venue intimate enough for the audience to develop a deep connection with these friends, while also giving their rambunctious energy and unbridled charisma the room they deserve to soar.

As the space goes, Amelia Jane Hankin’s set is exactly what this production calls for. It’s simple but poignant, with the red railing running around the pitch gaining greater significance as the boys face the fact that their days at red pitch may soon be behind them.

Because while Red Pitch is a story about friendship and football, it also opens up a pressing discussion about gentrification, displacement, and the importance of accessible community spaces. A lingering presence throughout the show is Bilal, Joey, and Omz’s rapidly changing ‘ends’, as accommodation gets shut down and friends protest the closure of local businesses. With so much uncertainty around them, football becomes an even more vital escape.

This escapism radiates throughout the movement pieces interspersed between the dialogue, whether the boys are fantasising about a stadium full of roaring fans or dazzling the girls at a party with their best moves. The choreography by Dickson Mbi and Gabrielle Nimo is astonishingly precise yet fluid, and Ali Hunter’s lighting design takes full advantage of Soho Place’s tech capabilities to make every single movement pop.

The synergy between the writing, direction, acting, and visual design in Red Pitch is exquisite, and I left the theatre smiling from ear to ear after having spent 90 minutes with these wonderful characters. Williams and Bailey have delivered a triumphant masterclass in theatre that entertains, delights, and inspires conversation. It’s a pitch-perfect knockout that deserves to be seen by as many people as possible — regardless of how much you’re a fan of the beautiful game.

Playing until 4th May:https://sohoplace.org/shows/red-pitch

Reviewer: Olivia Cox

Reviewed: 21st March 2024

North West End UK Rating:

Rating: 5 out of 5.