A LOW-budget show with a cast who are capable but clearly not professional, this canny piece about the global marketing of football reveals itself to be well worth recommendation purely on the basis of Duncan Ellis’s sparkling script.
It’s funny, it’s well-informed and it nails its subject with a depth of honesty and emotional skill. A demonstrative case in point is perhaps agency boss Evan’s witheringly delivered line of the play. On the subject of suicide bombings in Middle East food queues, he tells us “all that’s left is blood and trainers – and that is product placement of an astonishing dimension.”
Transitioning their efforts from the handling of unglamorous and unscriptably dull northern lad Chris Knowles, to the dazzling potential of a young South American maestro they call “the Brazilian”, the staff of the Smith & Richard agency – swaggering Evan, East End wideboy Mark, the pretentious “artist” Tris and good-time girl Abs – pile through an astonishing range of national stereotypes in constructing their campaign, eventually settling on Tris’s edgy religious and political metaphor taglined “Take It to the Streets”, a knuckle-headed Hollywood riff on the Arab Spring.
In Indonesia, meanwhile, trainer-stitching sweatshop exploitee Benny takes the campaign a bit too literally, seeing in this 19-year-old footballing hero the messiah who can solve the world’s problems. It’s a whip-smart play, with a firm handle on the pettiness and adolescence that infests many corporate institutions, and a group of well-defined characters who are used to compelling effect throughout.
Moreover, there are deeper truths briefly and subtly exposed, for example about how the spectacular is used to feed people the self-image that power-brokers want them to have.
“We take somewhere dangerous, deprived, pungent and chaotic,” as Evan proudly boasts of the campaign, “and we castrate it. That’s what we do.” It would be harrowing if it wasn’t so bleakly amusing.
Until 11 August. Today 4:05pm.
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Sunday 19 May 2013
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