An Evening with Gary Lineker

Arthur Smith and Chris England
Tabs Productions and Rumpus Theatre Company
Pomegranate Theatre, Chesterfield
to

England v West Germany in the semi-final of Italia 90: five people with contrasting views about football watch the action on television while they’re holidaying in a Majorcan hotel.

There’s Bill, the committed Spurs fan, wearing his team’s replica shirt, and his wife Monica who fantasises about Gary Linker; Ian, the dysfunctional, football-hating bore who’d rather be doing something more interesting; his German acquaintance Birgitta with an in-depth knowledge of the game; and Dan, the mysterious late-comer who has a passion for women as well as football.

This is the premise for An Evening with Gary Lineker, the fifth in a seven-play season to celebrate 70 years of the Pomegranate Theatre.

Arthur Smith and Chris England’s play was first presented at the Chesterfield venue in 1994 when fans were still smarting at England’s World Cup exit on penalties four years previously.

Twenty-five years later, now that England have finally won a penalty shoot-out, audiences can view the work in a different light. It’s no less entertaining, although it can hardly be described as a play with Premier League potential; it would fit more into the middle or lower end of the Championship.

That’s not to say Rumpus Theatre and Tabs Productions don’t give it 110%. They’re on target in this play of two halves and they’re never ruled offside.

The play is about as lightweight as the current Fulham defence in the Premier League because the characters have little depth. But under Karen Henson’s direction the actors bring out all the humour of the script; I often found myself laughing loudly at the on-stage antics.

David Martin is the holding midfield player, pulling everything together as stoical Bill, the publishing boss who fears losing his top writer and his wife as well as contemplating another England defeat in the football.

Versatile Susan Earnshaw who was “delightful” as dotty Abby Brewster in Joseph Kesselring’s Arsenic and Old Lace, “outstanding” as June Buckridge in The Killing of Sister George by Frank Marcus and showed “exceptional” facial expressions as Mary Featherstone in Alan Ayckbourn’s How the Other Half Loves earlier in the season, excels as Monica who wants excitement in her humdrum life.

John Goodrum’s Ian is a bit of a geek who tends to get on the nerves of those around him. Goodrum’s timing is exceptional as he effortlessly draws out the comedy in the role.

Anna Mitcham, performing in all seven plays in the season, impresses as Birgitta, the flighty young woman who has fun with the English language as well as being a serious temptation for the men.

Chris Sheridan is the striker as Dan, author of a book called The Trainspotter who is the antithesis of anyone you would normally associate with the hobby: vibrant, outgoing and lusty.

While An Evening with Gary Lineker might not be top of the league when it comes to characterisation, it’s still a good draw for regular theatregoers as well as football fans. In the hands of Rumpus and Tabs, it certainly proves to be a winner.

Steve Orme