Monday, 21 September 2020

REVIEW: Squad Goals at Dagenham and Redbridge Football Ground

Any chance right now for escapism is welcomed and especially if it’s returning to live theatre. Amazing then that Squad Goals should absolutely smash a premier league-level triumph by taking over a stadium no-less for arguably one of the UK’s most exciting live theatre events of 2020. 

Squad Goals revolves around a group of young women who are about to embark on the expected routes their parents anticipated for them. At the eleventh hour before these ‘realistic careers’ are almost reality, the women have the chance to play one crucial last game at a community tournament that is guaranteed to be visited by a scout for Dagenham and Redbridge FC. 

Arriving at the venue, it’s impossible to not be instantly absorbed into the immersive buzz of the football club with its bustling club house bar, stewards checking us in and cast in football kit wandering through the space adding to the sense of pre-match anticipation. 
The players themselves are such a three-dimensional ensemble of characters from the social-media Instagram influencer to the goal-driven ambitious football devotees. Where the production really shines is in these finely-tuned and recognisable ‘types’. It’s very easy to spot someone you recognise and impossible not to sense a fear of missing out when the players split off on their various paths with the fragmenting audience each enjoying backstory that fleshes out our understanding of some of the individuals and their motivations. 

So well-crafted is the promenade journey of the piece that every turn gives you a new angle on the bigger story and reminds us to consider that we don’t know much about the lives of others until we walk in their shoes; the production tackles these macroaggressions that the characters have lived with, such as the sexism within sport, with suitable pith. 

The real joy is the immersive interaction between the characters and audience and their ability to improvise ‘banter’ in role as the audience test their wits in unscripted territory. It’s very exciting to be lead off into the depths of the club to various off-pitch locations and the story alter appropriately in tone, pace and content. Major fear of missing out from the echoes of the other groups guarantees a return like one of the members of my team who had previously followed a different story. 

The exceptional second act, watched from the stadium seating, brings out the full passion, aggression and drama that the preamble around the venue and various splinter groups built up to. The roaring music and intense choreography fills the once-empty stadium with a pounding sense of a match that has so much riding on it for so many of the characters. Theatrical techniques saved until act two really add a sense of mastery to the storytelling enabling a heightened reality to represent the labyrinthine complexity of conveying a full football match ‘on stage’. It’s done here to perfection! 

It’s beyond commendable that this production is employing and giving opportunities to so many performers and offering both the area, society and those just want entertaining so much. We’re taught to think, encouraged to dream and reminded that whatever our goals are, we have the ability to change the goalposts in life whenever we wish! 

Review by Justin Williams 

Rating: ★★★★

Price of Ticket: £10.68 - £26.69
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