The Bounds

Stewart Pringle
Royal Court Theatre & Live Theatre
Royal Court Theatre Upstairs, London

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Ryan Nolan as Percy and Lauren Waine as Rowan Credit: Von Fox Promotions
Ryan Nolan as Percy and Lauren Waine as Rowan Credit: Von Fox Promotions
Soroosh Lavasani as Samuel Credit: Von Fox Promotions

Stewart Pringle’s ninety-minute play takes us from the excitement of two characters chatting about football to an apocalyptic, dreamlike vision of a troubled world.

Percy (Ryan Nolan) and Rowan (Lauren Waine) are waiting in an empty field to defend their end of the 1553 annual Whitsuntide football match with the next village. The game takes place over a great distance, so we never see any other players.

Percy arrives singing “Drink with me to the football game we love.” Their conversation is familiar to anyone who has sat in a pub just before a match. They swap stories about players and tactics for a quarter of the show before the mysterious, well-dressed stranger Samuel (Soroosh Lavasani) arrives claiming to be the son of a local squire. Percy is instantly hostile to the man, suspecting him of being a spy for the next village.

Ryan Nolan is physically and verbally utterly convincing as the emotionally paranoid local, quick to react defensively against an outside world that he has learned to perceive as a danger.

Another visitor is a young lad, Robert (Harry Weston), beating out the line of new boundaries ordered by the King. This also worries Percy, who doesn’t want to belong to a different area.

The show shifts from light, pub-style banter to more personal clashes between the minimally sketched characters.

Fleetingly, the story touches on the horrific social abuse of assertive women and the King’s persecution of Catholics, but none of these moments carries any dramatic tension or encourages much sympathy for the victims. As for the central issue of new boundaries, we never hear why the King is doing this or why local people might find it a problem. The ambitious array of serious themes end up being little more than a tickbox colouration to the later part of the play.

Reviewer: Keith Mckenna

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