During 1995, in my final year at drama school, I saw a production of Dealer’s Choice by Patrick Marber. Directed by the author himself, and featuring a stellar cast including Ray Winstone, Phil Daniels and Nigel Lindsay, it used the microcosm of a poker night to explore mighty themes and ideas.
The bold and extraordinary combination of taut, sharply observed writing exploring compelling and exciting themes and ideas that I witnessed in that production have stayed with me over the years. Its high production values and financial and geographical accessibility has become a template for Rapture Theatre. I am thrilled, therefore, to be directing the Scottish premiere of Patrick’s newest play.
The Red Lion focuses on the ideological battle between two opposing views: the idea that the main purpose of a football club is to benefit its local community, and that a football club is a money-making machine: a platform for personal gain.
This depiction of a clash between those who believe in the cultivation of a powerful collective ethic, and those who display raw, ruthless, individual ambition represents, for me, a powerful symbol for an age that began with Thatcher and now seems to be approaching its zenith with Brexit and highlights the wider cultural issues that take the play beyond its physical setting in a football changing room.
The play depicts football as having at its heart an essential “purity”, a purity which is corrupted by the selfish desires, fallibility and avarice of individual human beings. In this respect, the play mirrors the corruption we see everywhere around us in our world.
But, to quote The Stranglers, whatever happened to all the heroes?
Growing up, many of my peers desperately sought heroes/mentors, individuals who would provide them with positive, aspirational role models and guide them, by example, with integrity and insight. As a theatre director, I believe that Patrick’s play brilliantly captures this deep-seated need and desire we all have to find someone we can admire enough that we can ask ourselves: what would he, or she, do in my situation?
In our world where villains – political, cultural and sporting – seem to be in the ascendancy, perhaps we need to ask and explore what it means to be a hero and why, just now more than ever, we seem to need them?