Arts Review – The Red Lion


Theatre Royal, dir. Michael Emans, 18-22/6/19

The Red Lion is a single-act play, coincidentally lasting just longer than a
standard game of football. Its narrative depicts the falling apart of three
individuals and the football club they’re committed to, albeit it with entirely
different motives and visions for its future.

Kidd, its business-minded manager, believes Red Lion FC needs to modernize along with the now money-orientated game; Yates, club legend turned kit man, believes in the love of football as a community force. Caught in the middle of both challenges facing the club – and football today as a whole – is young Jordan, a troubled but promising new talent,
too good for the skint non-league side. As the play unravels each man’s heroic
façade, Kidd and Yeates’ visions collide, ultimately culminating in tragedy. Kidd
presents as the natural antagonist and the personification of the cruelty of
modern football. While he demands Jordan’s respect through anger and fear, he
is jealous of the natural, paternal relationship and solidarity between Yeates and

Set entirely in the club’s timeless changing room, the narrative focuses on the
battle to profit on Jordan’s talent. The room itself witnesses each man’s secrets
and downfalls – the connection to the space is exemplified as Yeates desperately
tries to take home ‘his’ coat peg. The men’s identities are constructed around the
club – Yeates brought the club FA Cup magic and also dragged it down; Kidd’s
difficult childhood memories guide him in his quest for glory; Jordan is Icarus,
willing to sacrifice everything to give himself purpose. Kidd especially is happy
to throw the other men under the bus as he overcompensates as manager,
making up for the drastic falling apart of his home life. The Red Lion is a
cautionary tale of passion gone awry, and the different faces that such passion
can wear. It’s the tale of three chefs using different recipes with the aim of
making the same pie, and winds up proving how that just can’t happen.

The production was followed by a group discussion with the director, cast, actor
Scott Kyle and anti-racist activist group Show Racism The Red Card. The small
number of audience members that stayed behind led way to an open and friendly
exchange – the discussion concerned heroism and masculinity, modern football,
and how the play mirrored the writer’s own experiences in rebuilding and
fighting for a local non-league side. The Red Lion feels a fitting watch on the same
evening that Scotland lost grasp of their three-nil lead in the Women’s World
Cup, falling out of the tournament. The national team can rinse and repeat; Red
Lion FC will face a steeper hill to climb back from.

[Amy Shimmin – she/her – @amylfc]

[Photo credit: Richard Campbell]

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