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The Red Lion (play not pub!)

Written by the man behind Closer, with the same director as The Play That Goes Wrong, this sporty, character-based show is coming up in and near Horsham.

A sports-based story from the playwright behind the Julia Roberts and Jude Law movie Closer is taking to the stage in Horsham and elsewhere in West Sussex as part of Horsham District Year of Culture.

Set in the locker room of a non-league football club, The Red Lion debuted at the National Theatre in 2015 and received good reviews. Described as both humorous and haunting, it’s a three-hander about rivalry over a new star player… but you don’t have to understand the offside rule to enjoy it, we’re promised.

Muddy spoke to director Sean Turner – who’s just spent three years directing West End slapstick hit The Play That Goes Wrong, to find out more.

Director Sean Turner

The Lionesses recent rise to the semi finals of the Women’s World Cup has drawn more female fans to the game, but do you have to be a footie-lover to enjoy this play?

No. I’m not a massive football fan but I am a big sports fan and I understand it from that perspective. Patrick Marber is a wonderful playwright.

It’s a story that has football as a theme but it’s not a play about football so much as a play about humanity, as most plays are.

It’s a story about what football means to different people at different stages of life and a story about masculinity but it also explores men’s sensitive sides.

So do you have to be a man to get it?

It’s not a play necessarily for men. Looking from a women’s perspective is quite interesting too. Also football is becoming much bigger for women. It might be intesting to do the play in future as an all-female production.

Tell us about the three contrasting leads 

Yates is an old-fashoned kit man who has been around for years and it’s the love of his life. Kidd is an ambitious manager who sees this as a stepping stone to where he wants to be. Then there’s Jordan who’s a 17-year-old protege from a difficult background who gets played off by both the men.

It involves experiences drawn through three generations of men. Yates has always been about the community. For Kidd it’s very much about money and cars… Then really Jordan just wants to play, he just loves the game.

Patrick Marber has a link to Lewes Football Club and based the play on his experiences there!

So might people from that time recognise themselves and be spitting chips?! 

I don’t think so! All of them are flawed in different ways… but also sympathetic.

You start at The Capitol then where are you off to? 

We’re taking it to some really interesting venues across Horsham such as non-league football clubs, getting out to people who wouldn’t necessarily think of theatre as their first thought for a night out.

People who like sports often don’t think they like theatre but a football match is really 90 minutes of improvised drama between 22 men or women!

The Red Lion opens at The Capitol, Horsham on Fri 16 and Sat 17 Aug and goes on tour through Horsham district and Steyning for the rest of August and September (see the full schedule here) Tickets are £10 It’s suitable for ages 14+, though bear in mind there’s a lot of bad language. 

Find more ideas here

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