Their Scarves Were Red

Date 16th February 2018
Society Fareham Musical Society
Venue Henry Cort Community College, Fareham
Type of Production Musical
Director Stuart Frank
Musical Director Louise Helyer
Choreographer Hannah Edwins

Report

Author: Mark Donalds

The Hillsborough football stadium tragedy seems an unlikely subject for a musical but Their Scarves Were Red, presented by FMS Youth Theatre, was written to mark the twenty-fifth anniversary of the disaster, completely dispels any doubts about suitability. Penned by Darren Vallier and Rob Sweetman, it is the story of two friends travelling from Brighton to Sheffield on 15th April 1989 to watch Liverpool play, and it is told with such thoughtfulness and sensitivity that you cannot fail to be moved. Being performed by a youth group just served to highlight how vulnerable everyone in the crowd was and, rather than apportioning blame, the story highlights how the twists and turns of fate can save one individual but tragically end the life of another.

Performed on an empty black stage, all that was needed to conjure up the atmosphere were simple props, efficiently brought on and off by the cast, and some perfectly chosen images and video sequences projected on the back wall. A lot of attention had obviously been paid to the costumes of every single member of the cast. Most wore matching red and white t-shirts but there were nice touches to highlight some characters, like Chloe’s Goth outfit and the little old ladies with their permed hair and wrinkled stockings. Lighting too was well designed, with spots to highlight the speakers while the action behind them froze.

The whole cast deserves huge praise for their fine singing voices and their ability to project without microphones, something many adults cannot achieve. They were well supported by the chorus who all seemed totally engaged with the show and injected great enthusiasm into every appearance on stage. The imaginative choreography was well executed throughout and I particularly liked the way the cast crowded onto the steps in the audience at the beginning, giving a real feeling of being on the terraces.

Finley Rowsell was the perfect Dan – utterly convincing in his total devotion to football, to the exclusion of all else, even his girlfriend. Joseph Townsend-Bilton was the ideal foil as his friend Barry, a frustrating but loveable idiot. Both sang and acted with feeling and maturity way beyond their years. Isabelle Parsons also excelled with her very realistic portrayal of rebellious teenager Chloe, and entranced us with her fine singing. Kirsty Wareham-Collins and Matthew Cocker as Dan’s parents, and Mia Marino and Tristan Redwood as Chloe’s parents gave great support and I really felt they were older than their children – something that can be hard to achieve. Emily Gregg (as Dan’s ex-girlfriend Debbie) demonstrated an amazing singing voice and Freya O’Grady gave a compelling performance as the Steward, mysteriously wafting in and out of the action in different guises. “Scene stealer of the show” award must go to Sini Ruvidic whose portrayal of Paulo the hairdresser was quite outstanding – his every movement and facial expression was a masterpiece of observation!

This could have been a difficult subject to present as a musical, but the starkness of the tragedy was softened by the sensitive treatment it was given by this talented group and the gentle humour in the script.  Director Stuart Frank, MD Louise Helyer and Choreographer Hannah Edwins must have worked the cast really hard to achieve such a high standard in just ten weeks - it was quite remarkable. The performance completely deserved the standing ovation it received at the end. A huge well done to everyone involved for having the courage to present something so totally different and for doing it so well.