It’s the end of the transfer window – Deadline Day. Tensions are running high as clubs, players and agents alike attempt to make the best of the opportunity to switch up their teams and exchange incredible sums of money for the most talented individuals. Danny (Tevye Mattheson) is on his way down to London to sign a transfer that he is clearly unsure about. Supportive agent and friend Rachel (Victoria Gibson) is on hand, gently encouraging him to take the deal; driver and lifelong United supporter Trevor (Mike Yeaman) is the chauffeur for the day, unhappy about Danny’s decision to move away from his beloved club. There are a number of intriguing themes that permeate through John Hickman and Steve Robertson’s script, but none get the development they deserve. This is a show with too much to say and too little time to say it.
Deadline Day is a disconnected show that jumps sporadically between news reporters, private phonecalls and the unfolding drama between its three protanogists. The underlying concept, the frenzy of activity that bubbles through such a stressful time, is clear, but in execution it feels too muddled – director James Callas Ball never manages to focus on any topic long enough for it to have impact. Characters wander around the stage without meaning and create a nonsensical narrative that doesn’t progress in any particular direction. The intention is there, but the realisation lacks drive and purpose.
Hickman and Robertson touch on a number of poignant issues that generate inflammatory reactions on all sides of the game. Sexism in the sport; the shocking price disparities between players’ salaries and supporters’ ticket costs; the expected dedication to a club from both footballers and their fans, all are brought to light with emotion and purpose. But each point is only superficially touched upon, flippantly made before sinking back into the ether without further substantiation. As a production, Deadline Day needs to look in more depth at selected aspects. Be it Rachel’s passionate reactions to being taken seriously as a female in football, or Trevor’s heartfelt attachment to the club that has given him such joy for over 50 years, any of these will make for a more impactful overall production if given the limelight they deserve.
The performances also add to the overall mixed feeling that permeates through Deadline Day. As Rachel, Gibson is the stand-out actor – she breathes life into her character with an assured confidence, so comfortable in her backstory that the audience is drawn to her even when she is not the focus of the scene. Her explosive reactions are well delivered and add much-needed dynamic in intense bursts. Trevor (Yeaman) grows into his character as the play progresses, an initial unease overcome when he begins to convey the thought processes behind the driver’s erratic actions. Yeaman has passion for his craft to match Trevor’s dedication to his football team – this comes through in the final moments, some tender dialogue with young footballer Danny (Mattheson) adding a comforting dimension to the end of this show. Mattheson is well intentioned, but never quite conveys the same depth that his fellow actors drum up – as the lynchpin of the story, Mattheson feels too nervous in his delivery to perform at his best.
Deadline Day feels like a piece still in development – the potential is there, but the story needs restructuring and some stronger direction to deliver a more cohesive piece. The epilogue itself is a slightly saccharine afterthought on a play that needs a stronger vision to guide it through a turbulent topic. Given the inflammatory response that football as a whole generates, this show lacks the passion of its subject material.
Director: James Callas Ball
Producer: Jamie Eastlake
Writer: John Hickman; Steve Robertson
Design: Andrew Reynolds (sound)
Cast: Mike Yeaman; Victoria Gibson; Tevye Mattheson
Deadline Day plays TheatreN16 until 16 September 2017. For more information or to book tickets, please visit the website.