Review: Back to school in God Bless The Child, Royal Court
Review: The Curing Room at the Pleasance Theatre, London

Review: Become a sports fan with Hoke's Bluff at Shoreditch Town Hall

3HOKES BLUFF-8(Paul Blakemore)
Gemma Paintin and James Stenhouse in Hoke's Bluff. Photo by Paul Blakemore.

Second time back to school this week, this time the action centred on a high school sports team - football, hockey, baseball the actual sport isn't the point, the point is the one winning shot.

Theatre company Action Hero has devised a show that mixes snippets of pre-match entertainment via the team's wildcat mascot, locker room conversations, training and actual games. There is a referee to keep all in order whose sporting sign language is like a beautiful complex dance routine.

It is performed by Action Hero's Gemma Paintin and James Stenhouse who rotate through a variety of roles with Emma Dannequin as the referee.

The audience is encouraged to participate, roped in as the crowd at the game with Go Wildcats flags to wave and wave them we did. Popcorn is handed out at the start although I could have done without the rustling and munching.

Some of those sitting on the front rows make up the other team members receiving pep talks by the coach and sometimes given a towel to hold. It is difficult not to be swept along; there were a few unprompted cheers and some took their interactions with the characters as an opportunity rather than an embarrassment.

The seating configuration - rows down either side of a sports field/indoor court - gives ample opportunity to spy on the reactions of your fellow audience members sat opposite.

The story is a simple one, the Wildcats' star player has lost his form and a crucial match is approaching. On the one hand the skill with which the production builds up to the final game and the innovative way it is played out is a testament to the creativity and skill of the team behind the play. However, there is more to this tale which turns the banal into the epic. At times it feels like a statement on the human condition taking in ambition, fame, tragedy, what is important and what probably isn't.

A mixture of dialogue styles including conversations and sometimes almost poetic monologues together with popular songs produce a play of colourful aural and visual palette. Not all of it quite works - some of the quieter scenes feel a little long compared to those which are more energetic and it is sometimes a little too self-consciously 'deep'.

However, you can't fault the imagination and creativity at play, it's different, frivolous and occasionally profound and it gets thumbs up for that.

Hoke's Bluff is on at the Shoreditch Town Hall until November 29 and is about an hour and 20 minutes without an interval.