Paul T Davies reviews Squad Goals by Michelle Payne and presented by Caspa Productions at Dagenham and Redbridge Football Club.
Dagenham and Redbridge Football Club.
This is only the second time I have been to a football ground, which gives you an idea that I’m not a fan of the game. But both times have been to see a piece of theatre, and huge congratulations to Caspa Productions for staging this immersive, site-specific, goal-scoring production about women’s football. It’s a totally Covid secure space, and instructions are clear and the audience and company safety is given priority, in a venue well able to accommodate social distancing. If you’re thinking of going, please don’t worry and go, it’s well worth the experience!
I saw the show on a wet matinee and was part of a small audience, and the squad I saw upped the energy levels to hype up the small crowd. In places, when scenes were presented to small groups, this verged on overacting, but as the audience were clapping and cheering during the football sequence, this clearly worked. Michelle Payne’s script focuses on the rise of women’s football and tackles the stereotypes associated with it that the women have to overcome, and at places, the feminist argument becomes a little didactic. I also wanted to know more about some of the characters, I was a Dagger supporter so got to know my six characters more than the opposing team. (There’s a lesbian subplot that felt a bit forced, but I think it was introduced in the other team, so I wasn’t aware of it.) However, they’re a lively squad and we rooted for them!
It’s such a tight ensemble that it seems a little churlish to single out some performances, but Kia Brame was delightfully thick as Sharkey, Giorgia Falcioni an engaging and funny Italian striker Assassina, Lucy Aistone a superb Lexi, complicating and challenging the Essex girl stereotype by playing football but still loving beauty treatments and Jamie Corner very funny as the token male, Shane, the weakest link of the team! What really lifts this play above a fairly good look at female football, however, is Sundeep Saini’s outstanding choreography and movement. They play the football match in the second half, and it’s performed to a blistering soundtrack and entirely through dance and movement and crystallises all the excitement and drama of both football and theatre.
The biggest compliment I can give the show is that on a cold, wet afternoon, every audience member had a smile that shone through our face masks. It struck me that both institutions, theatre and football clubs playing at Dagenham and Redbridge FC’s level, are facing closure, perhaps extinction. If you can support them, go along and see this beautiful play about the beautiful game.
Until 10th October: https://www.ticketsignite.com/event/3138/squad-goals