BWW Review: MEMOIRS OF AN ASIAN FOOTBALL CASUAL, Archive Recording at Curve
At a time when the show must go onLINE and the hunger for live theatre is ever increasing, Curve has followed suit (along with other arts organisations) and dipped into their archives to stream the world premiere recording of 2018 production Memoirs of an Asian Football Casual, for one week only.
The play couldn't get any closer to home, as the production recreates De Montfort University Lecturer Riaz Khan's 2010 memoirs about 1980s Leicester, when racism and violence were rife. His only sense of belonging was to join The Baby Squad, Leicester City's notorious football hooligans. Whilst he didn't necessarily approve of what they stood for, their collective unity was the appealing factor that he couldn't find elsewhere.
Adapted for the stage by Curve Associate Artist Dougal Irvine, the high-octane piece is delivered as a two-hander by two talented young actors, Jay Varsani as Riaz and Hareet Deol as his brother Suf. They play a huge number of roles and flit from one to the other seamlessly, with the changing of accents particularly impressive. The chemistry between the two performers and the energy levels that they maintain across two hours is undeniably exceptional.
Grace Smart's clever set design sees the audience sat in two blocks, on either side of the stage. The playing space mimics a football pitch with the audience positioned as if they are watching from the stands. Props and clothing are positioned around the stage with costume changes taking place onstage throughout, acting as a shield in times of violence. Charlotte Burton's lighting especially excels during these darker moments when it can feel quite claustrophobic.
There are some nice nods to 80s nostalgia, with music from Michael Jackson, Madonna, MC Hammer, to name a few - and these musical snippets are used effectively within the play.
Curve Artistic Director Nikolai Foster skilfully directs the fast-paced show and is able to draw emotion out of the darkness. It is not an easy watch, but the action feels extremely credible and hopefully testament to Khan's written memoirs.
Perhaps the show was not meant to be seen in this format, so camera operators are often seen in the footage and it is occasionally clunky. However, the essence of the piece does translate and would only be amplified by watching it live.
Memoirs of an Asian Football Casual is available to watch online until Friday 3 April at www.curveonline.co.uk