As I said in my review of Red Ladder Theatre’s The Damned United a few months ago, I’m really not into football. I do of course love theatre, however, so I find myself at a bit of crossroads when these two things merge. Yet, that production did have a wonderful and unique energy about it, so I found myself interested in Pilot Theatre’s new play The Season Ticket, produced in collaboration with Northern Stage. Directed by Pilot’s Associate Director Katie Posner, I managed to catch the show on its stop at York Theatre Royal.
The Season Ticket was originally a novel by Jonathan Tulloch, and is better known for being adapted into the film Purely Belter in 2000. It follows the story of Gerry and Sewell (Niek Versteeg and Will Graham), two teenagers obsessed with football in a run-down area in the North East. They dream of getting two Newcastle United season tickets, and set out to earn a thousand pounds as they navigate a landscape of domestic abuse, teenage pregnancy and oppressive teachers.
For the first time in months after leaving a theatre, I had to take a long moment to reflect on the last two hours and get my breath back. This is mainly down to the tremendous energy, focus and dynamism of the play’s ensemble of performers, including Kevin Wathen – as the play’s sympathetic glimmer of hope – in the form of handyman Dan, and Laila Zaidi as Gerry’s conflicted sister Claire. Joe Caffrey also gives a stunning performance as Gerry’s alcoholic, abusive father Terry, and Victoria Elliott acts as a wonderful counterbalance, and is the dynamic icing on the cake in a well-cast, well-characterised ensemble.
Evoking this energy from Lee Mattinson’s adaptation is Posner’s clear directorial vision, which imbues the performances with a sense of vigour and determination underneath the skin of the characters and the piece itself. You can clearly see that great care has been taken with establishing the relationship between director and performer, and The Season Ticket is a fantastic example of the result of such powerful complicity.
Firmly rounding out Posner’s vision and bringing Tulloch’s world to life are top notch production values; Alexandra Stafford’s lighting design consists of a lovely palette of both bright and cold washes, which are perfectly balanced throughout to create various moods and atmospheres throughout. There’s also some excellent sound design and composition work from James Frewer, who creates an evocative, subtle soundtrack to the piece that sits on the periphery of the audience’s senses to maintain the play-world’s various atmospheres and cover scene changes.
But it has to be Jean Chan’s gorgeous set design that stands out the most amongst the production aspects. Reflecting perfectly the grittiness and grottiness of some run down concrete flats, with an ability to transport audiences to a stand in the Stadium of Light in an instant with a few slick adjustments, Chan’s concept is both clever and very well thought out. The set design generates a sumptuously simple visual spectacle on its own, but when combined with the other production aspects, you get a stunning, well-considered scenography.
The Season Ticket is a gripping tale of determination, dotted with both comic and heart-breaking moments throughout. It demonstrates the power of dreams in a fairly unexpected setting through two unlikely characters and their familiars, along with their enemies and bumps along the way. The Season Ticket is a wonderful live experience to be a part of, and has been one of my favourite Pilot shows so far. Make sure you catch it while it’s on tour – you certainly won’t regret it.
The Season Ticket played at York Theatre Royal until October 15 and is on tour. For more information and tickets, visit http://pilot-theatre.com/performance/the-season-ticket
Photo: Topher McGrillis