Not A Game For Boys*** (King’s Head Theatre)

Posted: June 13, 2015 in Theatre

IMG_5650smallThis review was originally written for The Public Reviews:

Cab drivers sometimes appear to us as if they are glued inside their vehicles, but this revival of Simon Block’s 1995 one-act comedy serves to remind us that they also have social lives. The play takes place in a Table Tennis club, where a drivers’ team is playing a key relegation match and the King’s Head’s thrust staging means that we get a chance to see the cabbies’ faces as well as the backs of their heads. Team captain Eric (Bobby Davro) and Oscar (Alan Drake) are in their 50s and have been swinging their bats for the club for 30 years. Eric regards relegation as unthinkable, but Oscar realises that the game is now for, if not exactly boys, younger men (and indeed women). Tony (Oliver Joel) is 29 and the team’s star player, but he is so beset with personal problems that his contribution to the vital match becomes doubtful. The sense that an era may be coming to an end had been spurred by the sudden mid- match death a week earlier of “Fat Derek”, a teammate. “The breeze as he went down rustled my Evening Standard” recalls Oscar, who now sees a future of Bridge and Bowls. He is a single man and his acute awareness of the advantages and disadvantages of independence comes through strikingly in Drake’s performance. His policy is never to get involved in the problems of the others just because “it’s policy”, but he always manages to do so anyway. Eric fusses around like a mother hen, using the club to grab time for himself, away from his cab and a family that includes a mother with dementia. Tony is torn between settling down with his girlfriend and sowing more wild oats, dalliances with a lady in the back of his cab in the Aldwych (not in broad daylight surely!) making his choice more difficult. Fine performances bring out the comedy and the pathos in these characters. The three actors play well off each other and get the banter of working class Londoners precisely right in Jason Lawson’s fast paced production. Much of Block’s dialogue is very funny, but it is underpinned with essential truths about the need to escape from the pressures of everyday life, if only to be faced with more pressure. Not A Game For Boys is 75 minutes of lightweight fare, but, in this skilful production, it is always entertaining and occasionally moving.

Performance date: 12 June 2015

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