Review: A Midsummer Night's Dream, Southwark Playhouse or when Stan went on stage to play a flower #7actordream
Review: Off The Kings Road, Jermyn Street Theatre (co-starring Jeff Bridges)

Review: The funny, sharp and powerful Odd Shaped Balls, Old Red Lion Theatre

Matthew Mars in Odd Shaped Balls (c) Luke W. Robson (8)
Matthew Mars in Odd Shaped Balls. Photo (c) Luke W. Robson

The Old Red Lion's tiny stage has been transformed into part bar/part rugby pitch for this coming out story. James 'Jimmy' Hall's rugby career is taking off as his team have been promoted but he has a secret he is desperate to keep.

He has a girlfriend but he also has a boyfriend and in the testosterone-fuelled world of rugby that is something he wants to keep quiet. But with the big league comes big press interest and secrets don't stay secret for very long.

The starting point for Richard D Sheridan's one-man play is when Jimmy accidentally swears during a TV interview after his team wins promotion. The clip goes down a storm on social media but in hindsight it will be the least of Jimmy's worries and is perhaps a hidden warning of what is to come. Matthew Mars plays all the characters in Jimmy's story taking us through his celebrations with his team, meetings with the boss, his relationship with his girlfriend, visits to his parents and his boyfriend.

Matthew Mars in Odd Shaped Balls (c) Luke W. Robson (8)
Matthew Mars in Odd Shaped Balls. Photo (c) Luke W. Robson

He brilliantly sets out the world that Jimmy inhabits and the culture of professional rugby and it is only after Jimmy has been forced to come out that we go back to find out how his gay relationship started.

Within the roar of chanting fans, the banter with team mates and media circus what Sheridan's play and Matthew Mars' performance does is to delicately show the more sensitive, human side of the story. Jimmy may be 6ft tall, all muscle and inhabit a laddish world but he also feels the pressure of playing the game - sport and media - is confused about his feelings, lonely and hurt by the prejudice he faces.

There are plenty of laughs and Matthew Mars gives colour to a lot of different characters but the power comes in the exposé of the homophobia in sport and the impact it can have. I'm giving it five stars and you can see it at the Old Red Lion Theatre in Angel until June 25.