By Richard D Sheriden
Grabbing you by the balls and tackling important issues
Sat downstairs in The Old Red Lion Pub, I was surrounded by football fans cheering on for Euro 2016 and as I stared at the many giant screens placed on every flat surface, forced to watch perhaps the most homophobic sport in the western world, it hit home just how important the subject matter of Richard D Sheridan’s one-man play is, and that is exactly what the fringe is great for!
Following a run away success of Edinburgh Fringe Festival last summer, Sheridan’s play about homophobia in sport is finally brought to London. Jimmy Hall (Matthew Mars) is a fresh faced, up and coming rugby star playing for a recently promoted team. Everything is going for him, ongoing media coverage, a loving girlfriend, proud family and secret male lover, but one of which has yet to become public knowledge. When he is outed via social media, Hall is forced to deal with the media’s obsession with celebrity sexuality and struggle with the sudden changes to his life.
Within Luke Robson’s wonderfully multi layered set, which encompasses the many locations of Hall’s life, Mars plays the many people who surround him on a daily basis from his manager and mates to his parents and PR consultant and does so fluidly and energetically. The fast paced monologue that flits around from one character to another works well to mirror the whirlwind surrounding Hall’s predicament and Mars offers (aside from numerous accents) humour and heart in equal measure without ever losing the importance of the protagonist and whilst being a 6 foot tall adonis of a man, still manages to portray the nuance of an emotionally distraught, confused youngster.
Odd Shaped Balls talks about important issues, not just about sport but about media intrusion, social media and most important about the responsibility of those given the gift of celebrity to be role models to others, especially within areas such as sexuality where many people are still forced to hide. With many sports men and woman coming out over the last few years, including rugby, it is still unbelievable how naïve and ignorant the larger financed sports like football still are. I urge you to go and see this play, be entertained, laugh, cry, and then go back to your world and help the conversation continue.
On at Old Red Lion Theatre, London, until June 25th 2016 Booking
© Harry Richards 2016