Review: The Red Lion at Bristol Old Vic

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The high-octane show exploring the conflict and passions running deep in non-league football was worth the wait

Bristol Old Vic’s production of The Red Lion finally came home after being postponed due to Covid just hours before curtain-up.

The 90-minute play, directed by Ed Viney, opened to a packed audience at the Weston Studio last night (Tuesday, February 8), and I think they’ll all agree it was worth the wait.

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The Red Lion explores the passions and conflict that run deep in non-league, semi-pro football and while I’m not an avid fan, there’s certainly no need to be to enjoy this show.

The beautiful game is one of psychology and intrigue that plays out here between three Bristol men in the dressing room of a struggling non-league team.

They’re at differing stages of their lives and career in a world far-removed from fame and wealth, but all hungry for the game in their own way - the ‘biting, fighting, greed’ of it all.

David Lloyd (left) as Yates and Joe Sims (right) as Jimmy Kidd.David Lloyd (left) as Yates and Joe Sims (right) as Jimmy Kidd.
David Lloyd (left) as Yates and Joe Sims (right) as Jimmy Kidd.

Hope that the declining fortunes of the club could be restored arrive in the form of emerging young footballer Jordan (played by emerging young actor Thomas Mcgee), a gifted attacking player who commands the pitch and parts the defence ‘like flesh’.

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While kit man Yates (Bristol City icon and actor David Lloyd) takes the teenager under his feeble wing, mean football manager Jimmy Kidd wants the ‘young prince’ for his own - but neither of them know that Jordan harbours a terrible secret.

Broadchurch actor Joe Sims is excellent as Kidd, perpetually in the throes of some rageful tirade about what’s rightfully his, or teetering dangerously on the cusp of one.

Meanwhile David Lloyd’s portrayal of Yates is enough to break your heart. Once a professional football albeit for a short stint, he’s now consigned like a ghost to the dressing room of the club he holds dear to his heart, and even that small consolation prize could soon be lost forever.

Talented young Bristol actor Thomas Mcgee plays emerging footballer Jordan.Talented young Bristol actor Thomas Mcgee plays emerging footballer Jordan.
Talented young Bristol actor Thomas Mcgee plays emerging footballer Jordan.

When I interviewed Joe about the play a few weeks back, he told me Yates and Kidd are the angel and the devil on Jordan’s shoulder.

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For me the characters represent two ideologies in football - one of fair play, loyalty and respect, the other of crude ambition that puts personal gain over the historic values of the club.

Crouched on low benches in the round, the audience are in the dressing room and the heart of the action themselves, witnessing something they’re not meant to see.

See it while you can.

The Red Lion is at the Bristol Old Vic until February 19. For tickets, click here or call 0117 987 7877.

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