In their debut full length production, From The Gut Theatre brings us Istanbul: You’ll Never Walk Alone, written by Nick Howden-Steenstra and Sam Angell, a comedy drama about football, Liverpool and the people who support the beautiful game. It’s loud, proud and passionate, just like the football fans it seeks to portray, and despite its relatively short running time manages to depict a wealth of well-defined characters.
Set in 2005 it’s the run up to the European Cup Final, and Liverpool are set to play favourites A.C. Milan at the Atatürk Stadium in Istanbul. We see a family gathered around their television set, a die-hard fan and radio host in his hospital bed, and a couple stood on the terraces of the stadium. For each of them the game means something different, but they all want the same outcome.
The play jumps back and forth between the run up to the game, and the game itself, and it also moves between the three sets of characters, which could have become distracting if it weren’t for the clever use of music and movement in director Max Harrison’s transitions. There’s a reference to the Hillsborough Disaster and the effect it’s had on Liverpool, perhaps this could have been explored further, or perhaps that one reference was all that was needed to get the message across.
Of course, with so many characters the cast of five need to work hard, and none of them are left sitting on the bench. Sam Angell gives the strongest performance, his Jonno is hilarious, while his Lee is sweet and endearing.
Here’s now where I make my confession; I really don’t have a clue about football, and I didn’t know anything about this particular game, much less what the final score was. Yet, by the end of Istanbul: You’ll Never Walk Alone I was on the edge of my seat, caught up in the fever pitch of excitement created by the cast, and willing Liverpool to victory. That’s quite an achievement for a fifty-minute play, and a testament to the solid writing and energetic cast.