• Paul O'Donnell

BALLS! : Coventry vs Shrewsbury [Review]


Review by: Paul O'Donnell

"With just a few tweaks to both the plot and its narrative arcs I believe this show could be exceptional"

As the great bard once said; “all the world’s a stage”…and the Ricoh Arena, Coventry is no exception.

Sunday’s clash of the titans saw the mighty Coventry City FC and the formidable Shrewsbury Town FC battle it out through this heart stopping 90 minute performance. It was a highly engaging show that for me just needed a touch more ‘pazzaz’ and, for some characters, a more compelling narrative arc.

With a cast of 22 it can often be difficult for even principal characters to get their moment to shine, but in the 16th minute one of Coventry’s protagonists Jordan Shipley had his 20 seconds in the spotlight. Scoring from just off centre stage, right next to the penalty spot, Shipley was rewarded with a well-earned standing ovation and audience sing along. Following this breath taking moment however Shipley seemed to blend into the background around him. I felt his character would have developed further had he scored another goal around minute 62 when the show's energy dipped drastically.

There were some performances that really did stand out. I admired the work of Alan Young who beautifully portrayed the role of 'Referee'. To the audience his character verbally said very little, but as Ronan Keating once said, sometimes “you say it best when you say nothing at all”. Young’s captivating story line was told primarily through hand gestures and whistle blowing, of which I have never seen anything like on the stage before. It was a bold direction, but one that really paid off.

Praise in part should also go to the show's co-directors Mark Robins and Sam Ricketts who never entered the performance space, but were notable and vocal presences shouting from just off-stage. I felt their choices could at points do with some dramaturgy, but for young directors there is a lot of promise here for them both.

The choreography of the ball was also worth note. At times it was truly breath taking, and at others less than imaginative. I felt at points like I was watching an episode of Strictly Come Dancing, with some routines hitting 10’s across the board… whilst others were Ed Balls and Katya Jones performing Gagnam Style. All highly entertaining, but frequently in need of a polish.

By the 76th minute I was delighted to see one of the understudies for Shrewsbury Fejiri Okenabirhie make his way on to stage to replace Anthony Grant (who was not on top form). Not two minutes later Okenabirhie earned his own standing ovation by scoring a goal through the legs of Coventry rival Lee Burge. It was a plot twist I did not see coming, and I really believe this will be the big break that Okenabirhie has been waiting for. I cannot wait to see what he does in the future; he is a much better performer than Grant.

By the end of the show, the message we as spectators are left with is that you can arrogantly sit there believing you are better than others for almost 62 minutes, but in the end, when the final whistle blows, we will come to realise that we are all equal!

It is a story that is incredibly relevant in 2019 and one that was told masterfully by the whole cast in this 1-1 draw for Coventry and Shrewsbury. With just a few tweaks to both the plot and its narrative arcs I believe this show could be exceptional.