Football is huge, period. Worldwide there are millions of teams, all trying to score success. Fit and Proper People is Georgia Fitch’s latest foray into the world of British football after co-writing The Footballer’s Wife in the 1990s.
For a limited time, the Soho Theatre is transformed from its traditional proscenium arch to a miniature football stadium in-the-round, complete with real turf, neon advertising strips, screens displaying live feedback and snippets of games, floodlights, and witty billboards questioning, “WAGS: What Do They Want?”
In fact, the entire framework of the play - from the programmes that feature character profiles, the multipurpose, detailed set itself, and the pies-and-pints being sold during the interval - is incredibly well conceived. The problem with Fit and Proper People, a collaboration between Soho and the RSC, is that the play is not.
Centred around footballers’ agent Casey Layton (Katy Stephens), it reveals the seedy underworld that accompanies even the most prosperous football teams. Dirty dealings, tax evasion, backstabbing, adultery, and even rape are all part of this heady, drug-fuelled cocktail of signing and keeping players.
Casey, who has a history with various other characters in the play, must keep her cool in this male-dominated world, and attempt to exact some form of revenge on those she still perceives to be a threat. The rest of the plot is peripheral, or downright baffling.
The exchanges are difficult to understand; the characters grossly stereotyped; Steve Marmion's direction, in the main, unimaginative; and attempts to interject some form of ensemble work are typified by slo-mo goal-scoring, freezeframes, and some cringe-inducing choreographed dancing. This, alongside a general sense of the production being woefully under-rehearsed, all contribute to lukewarm performances and a script as soggy as my half-time pie.
Perhaps I am missing a trick - perhaps the script is brilliantly insightful and groundshakingly clever. But if this is the case, it is also entirely inaccessible to those that are unfamiliar with this field. Whilst hats must be taken off to the lighting and set design, the saviours of this play, this dialogue-heavy production not only left me unmoved, but confused, and slightly put-out.