So there’s a manc, a scouser and a cockney… Sounds more like the opening of a joke than the cast of a play doesn’t it? But it’s the line up for Gregory Burke’s new play On Tour which takes a close look at lad culture in its various guises.
It all kicks off in a prison somewhere in Europe where two footie fans have been remanded before the game has even started. But it soon becomes evident that these two have no real interest in the match. H, the manc, is an opportunist, a self proclaimed Spiv who follows England because “Where there is anarchy there is opportunity.” His cell mate is the cockney, Daz, an ex-marine who despite seeming young and impressionable is a man on the edge, a dam of testosterone about to burst. He’s here for the fights.
The two swap stories with H doing most of the talking (after several stints inside he’s read enough to have an opinion on most topics). He’s here to meet the Liverpudlian, an ex-associate of his, to close a deal - the details of which are vague - but he’s convinced this is going to be a fruitful exploit, he can smell it, and he wants the ex-commando on his team.
Burke’s language is as tight as ever, by turns witty, sharp and thought provoking. The character of H particularly offers extremely compelling diatribes on various subjects; he claims lad culture is a phenomena of peace time arguing convincingly that young men are only of social use as cannon fodder.
Burke examines the relationship between the three men with microscopic detail. Add to this the convincing playing of the trio of actors and Matt Wilde’s deft and natural direction and you have what feels like a chillingly accurate portrayal of a subculture – a world away from anyone in the audience’s experience.
For me the only flaw comes in the piece’s conclusion. Burke’s plot is so neat and well tied up that suddenly it feels like a play, whereas what’s gone before felt real. So when we leave we’re looking for a meaning and asking questions about the theatricality of the piece and whether the violence is gratuitous. I would have preferred to be left with lose ends and a conviction of the reality of this world.
- Hannah Kennedy (reviewed at the Royal Court Upstairs)