REVIEW: 'Sing Yer Heart Out For The Lads' at Chichester Festival Theatre

Makir Ahmed as Barry in SING YER HEART OUT FOR THE LADS at CFTs Spiegeltent'Photo by Manuel Harlan
Makir Ahmed as Barry in SING YER HEART OUT FOR THE LADS at CFTs Spiegeltent'Photo by Manuel Harlan

Imagine an episode of Gogglebox on steroids, ruthlessly interspersed with gross swearing and racist language, and you begin to build a picture of Roy Williams' 21st century view of modern Britain.

A south-west pub is packed with regulars watching the England v Germany World Cup qualifying match on the unreliable TV screens which adorn the walls. They've been flogged to the landlady cut price by a dodgy customer.

It's not just the TVs that are on the blink.

The outcome of the game is inconsequential - for just like Gogglebox this is all about the reactions and interpersonal interplay of the England supporters watching the action from their bar stools, knocking back pints and knocking the living daylights out of each other- verbally and physically.

Staged in the brand new temporary Festival Theatre venue of the Spiegeltent adjacent to the main auditorium it gets no more intimate than this.

The audience is with the pub fans, a row back, but sharing the interval beers from the same bar that's a central focus of the action.

This revival could not be more timely.

With knife crime today bloodied on so many newspaper headlines its themes resonate even more strongly 17 years after it was first premiered.

Williams made clear he didn't merely want to write a play about race - but what it means to be British in the 21st century. The key question he poses is who is now more British - the blacks or the whites?

Sian Reese-Williams portrayal of landlady Gina perfectly pitches the balance between landlady encouraging good business at the bar and tough woman not looking for any trouble from the regulars.

The rest of the cast breeze it.

Once you've acclimatised to the language - shocking but somehow essential for authenticity - you are swept along to the brutal conclusion, which turns white prejudices on their head.

A brave slice of theatre unlikely to drive big audiences in Chichester and for that reason alone staged in just the right, tiny venue.