Thankfully you don't have to like football in order to enjoy this evocative piece by Monkeywood Theatre Productions. Originally part of the 2009 24/7 festival, Maine Road contains just over an hour of family drama.
The play deals with the lives of a single family, and revolves around the death of the grandmother. Her daughter Elaine is an alcoholic and has had two children, Leo and Jade by different fathers; but it has been the grandmother who has held the family together and instilled in Leo her love of Manchester City. The Maine Road stadium is only a stone's throw away from the house; as the play begins, it is about to be demolished. One final game will be played at the ground.
With his grandmother gone and fed up with his mother's drinking, Leo has secretly got back in touch with his father and wants to move in with him. His father, who appears to feel he has no parental responsibility for his son, tries hard to put him off. Things deteriorate further when the family are advised that they will have to move from their house because the grandmother had not put them on the tenancy.
Daniel Fitzsimons is excellent as Leo, as his portrayal of a fourteen year old boy traumatised by life, and what it throws at him, but emerging to be a more mature personality is entirely convincing. His sister Jade (Sarah McDonald Hughes) is the sensible capable one, thrust into that role by her mother's inability to cope.
The third corner in this very even playing field is Marie Critchley as Elaine. She gives a heart-warming performance, despite the character spending most of the play under the influence of the bottle, ganing sympathy as she is not a monster. The final corner is father Clive (Thomas Aldersley) and, although also well acted, this is perhaps the most underwritten character and the one it is hardest to feel anything for. The other two characters, a housing officer and a barmaid, are played by Francesca Waite, who gives a fine supporting performance.
McDonald Hughes, who is the writer as well as an actor, has created a tight, well scripted play which director Martin Gibbons has successfully brought to life. The rest of its run is in the Lowry studio, and the play is better suited to that more intimate atmosphere as it seems a little lost in the bigger Quays Theatre.
That said, Maine Road is definitely a play to be seen, even if you don't like football.