THE GLOVEMAN @ BLOOD MOON THEATRE

THE GLOVEMAN which is currently playing at Blood Moon Theatre is bookended by he song ‘Rain’ from Dragon’s ‘Cuts from Tough Times’ album. The characters in the play are from hard times, the coal dust frosting the pub’s pint glasses and deaths from black lung touching the whole town. But there is a bright spot. One of their own has been awarded the Golden Gloves award for being a champion goalkeeper, the second local to do so.

THE GLOVEMAN is not, however, a play which is about success. Rather, it explores temptation and greed and manipulation. It is about failure. The human failure of innocents in the face of insatiable and incultivated dishonesty.

Emerging playwright Chris Naylor, in collaboration with Director Michael Block, have created a play that places corruption in the least venial of places. A Northern English industrial town with a lower division soccer club.

Rising star gloveman or keeper, Royce is about to be interviewed for the paper about his win and his sister Edith and old teammate Col are on hand to support him. His interview gets out of hand and the paper prints a story with a whiff of “suspicious score lines and betting”. As things snowball, Clive, that first recipient of the award, is keen to keep his credibility and scorecard in the face of this young pup. Nothing will be helped by the arrival of HUGH a manipulative match fixer who has few morals and a devious agenda.

Royce is a young man of conflicts. When Chris Argirousis brings him on there is the expected arrogance of a successful athlete. The fantasy of what he wants to be is well shown by his choice to wear a suit and not his kit for his newspaper photograph. He’s passionate about what he is capable of and able to throw the charm around when required, even if his target is immune. Argirousis also gives us both the rankled Royce who is not impressed with comparisons to Clive and the compassionate Royce who makes choices from love. Ego at war with instincts.

The bond between he and his sister Edith (Brinley Meyer) is well developed early on and guides many of the play’s plot points. Audience empathy is a must if the climax and denouement are to have any power. Their sibling relationship is very well expressed by the cast and the early section of the ‘little bear’ scene was really lovely. So warm and wistful: beautifully written.

Meyer succeeds in giving Edith the hopeful naivety which allows the audience to buy into her unexpected choices. She brings out clear thought processes in Edith during the very well-directed seduction scene and we do understand that she is crushed and longing… easy pickings for the unscrupulous. Tennessee Williams is mentioned in the program and Edith has a Laura-like limp which is well acted but to my mind required some physicalising. A calliper or heightened boot?

Mate and former team mate Col is played by Matt Blake in a performance which completely avoids the tropes of the comic side-kick. Blake unquestionably can deliver a well penned comic line but there is heart and history in him too. The punch-drunk, has-been stereotype is avoided as Blake gives Col’s guilelessness and loyalty a naturalness and believability.

Newspaper journalist Gabe, Janine Penfold, effortlessly confronts the dominant paradigm to show ambition and doggedness. She doesn’t let Royce off the hook, knows her stuff and is not above using threats or cajoling with cash. Penfold is reliable and sturdy in this role with a delicate hint that there may be an underlying, if fleeting, lack of confidence despite Gabe’s external presentation.

As Hugh, Chris Miller is excellent in the early scenes where his menace is vital for the tension and mystery of the text to emerge and develop. His Hugh is menacing and untrustworthy and smarmy as he stalks Edith around the small set, eventually pulling her into his orbit. Unfortunately, Miller does not have as much to work with in the later part of the play and this is where there are things to say about the script.

This is a new work, a work which is developing and it will grow further with new hands in its next incarnation. But Naylor and Block have given THE GLOVEMAN a nurtured and steady beginning. The story travels well and the characters pop as brought to life by this cast.

It’s enjoyably written with several scenes of weight and interest. The aforementioned little bear scene for example. Myself, I especially loved the little vignette of the three players talking about past successes on the field. It was really accessible to a general audience but with entertaining depth to create a word picture for sports aficionados.

My friend and I… and the guys we were talking with at the train station … also responded strongly to the sequence involving the soccer players’ arc that took them from tension, through outburst, to companionable mateship. Very relatable and true to life. We also agreed that the end of the show has issues that need addressing to fulfil the potential of the work. But that does not diminish the entertaining production as it stands. Due in no small part to Block’s direction.

He has a steady hand on the intellectual elements such as implied and impending morality questions along with strong physical direction that allows the cast to be seen and heard easily. I see a lot of productions in this tiny ex disco that are shouty and meant for a different capacity theatre. This cast were the perfect volume which does so much to allow an audience to enter their created world.

Block also used the space very well, including off stage and his choice to use some freezes to offset the unwieldy amount of light changes to indicate a scene change worked well. As did the simple tech with a nice choice of pale green to resonate with the grass of the playing field which is constantly nurtured by Col and audio effects which were well chosen and placed.

THE GLOVEMAN is performed with Australian accents despite being set in Britain and the show is stronger for that honesty. It is a production which has a specific story and characters, yet a universal and relevant thematic core.

THE GLOVEMAN continues at Blood Moon Theatre until 14th of October.

One thought on “THE GLOVEMAN @ BLOOD MOON THEATRE”

  1. Would pretty much agree with your review, having witnessed the same performance and briefly discussed with Judith after the show. As our conversation was cut short, I would add the following.

    The moral questions you referred to that plagued the characters were resolved by Naylor by play’s end. The clashing egos of both glovemen were punctured by Hugh making it known that he has compromised both of their records through his match fixing. The pair redeem themselves and their relationship by combining with Col to turn the tables on Hugh. Here it is Col who is elevated to the heroic lead minus the hubris of the his former team mates.

    Even the ne’er-do-well Hugh appears reconstructed during his prison stay by the finish of the performance. He had lost his bombast and strut as well as his wife as a consequence of the life he had been leading. Edith who he helped to a makeover that would rival that experienced by Kylie as a result of her liaison with Michael Hutchence, seems inclined to stand by her man while he does his time.

    And despite the conclusion that they all lived happily ever after, the story and the characters were believable. Yes, this good play will get even better as it is progressively refined.

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