This 1980s Leeds-set football hooliganism play only skims the surface of the period and politics.
Set in Leeds in the early 1980s, ‘Marching on Together’, Adam Hughes’s play about football hooliganism, is not without potential. But the writing only skims the surface of the period and the politics.
Adam Patrick Boakes’s Macca, the one-time leader of the infamous Service Crew, has just been released from prison. Things have changed while he was inside and there’s a younger crew in control now, led by Nathan, a trainee accountant in a crisp white tracksuit. This doesn’t stop Macca getting sucked back into the life.
The play sets out to explore the appeal of these gangs to young men during a time when employment was hard to come by, when the full social and economic impact of the miners’ strike was beginning to be felt: the sense of purpose and unity, the taste of blood, the thrill of the fight.
There’s a fair bit of chest acting going on among the cast and the production features a number of scenes of men squaring up to one another and getting all shouty in each other’s faces. Donna Preston, as Macca’s girlfriend, Linda, provides a necessary break from all this testosterone, but she’s underwritten as a character and not alone in this regard. No one really grows and the intended emotional pay-off feels forced. Joshua McTaggart’s production is strongest in its scene changes, when chairs clatter to the floor and pint glasses are upended, when steel toe-caps collide with corrugated metal; a sense of tension and volatility is present in these moments which is otherwise absent.
Max Dorey’s lovingly detailed design, all grime and graffiti, successfully creates a sense of continuity between the theatre and the pub above which it sits; for similar reasons, there’s a degree of canniness to the programming of this play, but the writing lets the side down.