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Red Pitch: Friendship, footie and funny moments

Have you ever had a dream that felt so close yet so out of reach? It’s a phenomenon that resonates with many, including myself. That hunger to turn a hobby into a day job or turn your life circumstances around. Tyrell Williams’s highly acclaimed Red Pitch is back for round two at the Bush Theatre, and explores just that. The play follows three young Black boys who are kicking about on the football pitches of South London, pining for their dreams to go pro to become their reality. All the while their estate gradually vanishes piece by piece for “redevelopment” (AKA Gentrification). It’s not a situation that everyone may have found themselves in, trying to become a professional athlete whilst grappling the external pressure of potentially losing your home. There are powerful references to buildings being knocked down and the lack of football pitches in London. I left William’s play incredibly moved and related with the cheeky chappies on stage. Bilal (Kedar Williams-Stirling), Omz (Francis Lovehall) and Joey (Emeka Sisay) are 16-year-old boys trying to turn their QPR football tryouts into full time jobs by securing professional contracts. There are only 3 characters in this play, but the acting, alongside Williams’s rich writing and Daniel Bailey’s directing, holds the weight of 30 plus. The costumes, including Adidas tracksuits, Nike joggers and trendy trainers, grounded the play in reality for me. As the pressure mounts, the boys bicker, beat each other up, and belly laugh - as do the audience members. There is so much joy in Red Pitch and whilst there are moments of teenage angst, anxiety, and anger - it’s so refreshing to see Black boys just be. However, as they are chasing success, in the background, the boys’ estate and local area is changing. The price of chicken and chips has skyrocketed and the local Morley’s has turned into a Costa Coffee, much to Joey’s disdain. Omz is looking forward to moving into a swanky new building in a ground floor flat where his ailing Grandfather can be more at ease, while Joey is in the process of moving miles away. In true teen boy manner, the trio don’t fully address if this would impact their friendship. They don’t even consider what would happen if they don’t all ace the football trials and if burning resentment or jealousy will impact the group dynamic. Tensions do bubble over at points and I witnessed the most horrific stage fight I’d ever seen. I kept reminding myself that it wasn’t real and no one was actually getting hurt, because it truly did feel like I was watching a cage fight. Through a Twix bar and a tropical juice box we really get a glimpse into Omz, Joey and Bilal’s worlds and how awkward coming of age and stepping from boyhood into manhood can be. The extra three week theatrical run is deserved, but I feel Red Pitch can go further and could even end up on our screens. Its storytelling techniques reminded me of a TV series. When the 1 hour 30 minute play was over, I wanted more. I hope audiences far and wide get to see this unique story in some shape or form. 4/5

Through a Twix bar and a tropical juice box get a glimpse into Omz, Joey and Bilal’s worlds in Tyrell Willams's Red Pitch.

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