Hadn't heard of Barrie Keeffe or the play, nor did I know that it is the second in what is called the Barbarians Trilogy, so it's been a bit of an education this afternoon and a fun one.
The premise of the play - chosen by Roy Williams as part of the Royal Court's Playwrights' Playwright season - is three football fans are waiting outside Wembley on cup final day where their beloved Man United are playing Southampton. Jan (Sam Swann) has been promised tickets for the game from his Uncle Harold who is meeting them there but he is cutting it fine.
On the surface this is a play about passion for the game. It means everything to Paul (Morgan Watkins) to see his team play for the cup having followed them around the country all year. But underneath, it is also about identity and ambition and laced with social commentary.
For Paul the game comes before everything, it is his life and his reason for living. Jan is torn between the sense of belonging, feeling like someone when he part of the football crowd and wanting to move on and make more of his life. For Louis (Daniel Kaluuya) he is just going along with the crowd, happy to be accepted but his ambitions lie outside the world of factory work and football games.
Once again, with less than 18 hours to rehearse the actors have done a stirling job, throwing themselves into the performance even standing to sing Abide With Me and play ape. It's a funny, witty and interesting play. Williams chose it because it made him realise that theatre could be the medium for the man on the street and you can understand why.
Barbarians was revived at the Broadway Studio in Tooting earlier this year and I really wish I'd seen it. Let hope this bit of a exposure in the West End sparks further interest.