Give the Fans Sweet FA kicked off this week at Liverpool’s Royal Court Studio for a five night run of Mike Howl’s new comedy about one football fan’s rebellion against being taken to the cleaners. LVL grabbed their (blue) scarf and legged it down for the mid-week fixture on Wednesday night, rushing through the turnstiles just in time to take a seat, watch the action and find out the score…
Presented as a footballing comedy, it certainly lived up to its billing: there were plenty of laughs reverberating through the packed-out Royal Court Studio and lots of classic football references. It didn’t take long, however, for it to become clear that this was no gentle meandering kickabout of a comedy. Raw, edgy and radical, mixing together theatre and film, with some of the action projected onto a screen centre-stage, Give the Fans Sweet FA brought an audience of football supporters to the Royal Court Studio and presented them with a bold tale of their own exploitation at the hands of the footballing establishment.
Based on the best-selling book of the same name by Peter Farrell, Give the Fans Sweet FA was written and directed by Mike Howl, a veteran Liverpool-based actor and director with a string of credits to his name, with Mark Snow providing film footage, the highly experienced cast included Mikyla Jane Durkin (who also co-directed), Maggie Green, Geraldine Maloney Judge, Joseph Stanley, Kevin Thomas, PJ Murray, Adam Byrne, Joe Mathew-Morris, Claire O’Neill and Callum Wright, most of whom played multiple roles.
The action is set in 1992 and centres on Peter (Mike Sanders) and his mission to bunk into every premiership ground in the country in protest at the extortionate ticket prices and increasing corporatisation of football that has left many fans priced out of the stadium.
Using lots of tableau, direct address to the audience and with many surreal and absurd moments, it was perhaps an unexpected style of theatre for some in attendance, although most of the audience seemed to be enjoying the performance – one person in particular laughed heartily throughout and at some point someone else shouted out ‘bollocks’, apparently in response to obfuscation by Corporate Clive (played by Frank Kennedy), as he plotted with Diedre Disrespect (Rosalie Sephton) and Ronnie Ripoff (Peter Durr) to increase profits to the footballing establishment at the expense of the fans, a moment of audience interaction that became very much a part of the performance.
Meeting a host of curious characters along the way and using a range of tactics to gain entry, three years later Peter, a life-long Evertonian, has one final ground to bunk into – Anfield on derby day! With the match about to begin and all the gates shut, can he find some extra time or has his mission reached sudden death?
Give the Fans Sweet FA takes a hard look at the long shadow cast on the people’s game by the ‘man in a suit’ (Kevin Thomas), an ever-constant presence on stage, mostly watching on from the sidelines. A footballing spectacular, the show is running at the Royal Court Studio until Saturday, although remaining nights are sold out so if you haven’t already got your tickets, you’ve unfortunately missed out on this run.
The Royal Court Studio is a recently opened city-centre venue underneath the main Royal Court Theatre. Perfect for smaller-scale productions, it has a relaxed, informal, cabaret-style layout, well proportioned stage and reasonably-priced bar area in close proximity. Situated just opposite St. George’s Hall in the heart of the city, it is an ideal friendly place for a night of entertainment, and Give the Fans Sweet FA was certainly entertaining!
Not wanting to give too much away if you’re heading to the show over the next few days, rest assured that you’re in for quite an experience and a few surprises! Give the Fans Sweet FA, a play that is as ‘madcap’ and ‘audacious’ as the protest it depicts, is an eccentric and thought-provoking production, truly one of a kind – an interesting and unusual addition to the rich tapestry of Liverpool theatre. As the final whistle sounds, we’d have to say that although it was a game of two halves, the team played well: all in all a decent result!
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Images Courtesy of the Liverpool Royal Court, Mark Snow, Mike Howl and Peter Farrell.