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The Game (tour - Liverpool)

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
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Almost Hobson’s Choice; well, it is quite a dilemma: Austin Whitworth will lose Blackton Rovers, unless he sells star player, Jack Metherell - and if they are beaten, by the team which now owns him. What’s a man to do, particularly when he discovers that footballer and feisty daughter Elsie (Catherine Kinsella) are courting.

Did I say feisty? One of the peculiarities of this 1913 play is how uncommonly rude all three children are to their father, rarely translating as affectionate. Similarly, Elsie is incredibly scathing about Culture, thus belittling Jack’s attempts to better himself. This is presumably intended as satire on the ways of the modern world, and it does resonate when successful, with shrewd comments about football, money and celebrity; values superseded, at a cost, and the setting up of false idols.

Action eschews the football field in favour of comfortable chambers chez Whitworth, the office at the ground and Jack’s home, if you can call it that: Wendi Peters, a fiercesome Mama Metherwell, rules the roost, though in marrying Elsie, you suspect frying pan and fire come into the equation.

The unfortunate Jack, robustly portrayed by Phil Rowson is down to earth and highly principled, while John Branwell’s wily Edmund is a match for brother Austin, a role which appears tailor made for Barrie Rutter. Likewise, spirited Florence (Liz Carney) as Elsie’s sister, Jos Vantyler being an interesting contrast; aesthetic, bequiffed son, Leo, must be Number One fan of Mark from Ugly Betty.

Whilst not quite a palpable hit for Northern Broadsides, the acting is to the usual high standard; even if this play is rather stilted, still comical enough to make an entertaining evening.

- Carole Baldock

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