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Evening Standard
Evening Standard
Nancy Durrant

Score! Red Pitch, the Bush Theatre's smash hit show, is coming to the West End

The Bush Theatre has scored a hat trick, with Tyrell Williams's multi-award winning play, Red Pitch, returning to the stage for a third time – this time to the West End’s newest venue, @sohoplace theatre on Charing Cross Road, from March next year for a strictly limited run.

The Bush Theatre’s Associate Artistic Director, Daniel Bailey, directs the original cast, Kedar Williams-Stirling (Sex Education), Emeka Sesay (The Power; The Book of Clarence) and Francis Lovehall (Small Axe) reprise their roles as Bilal, Joey and Omz, three teenage lads whose friendship is anchored by their footballing ambitions and their afternoons training together at their community football pitch, in the shadow of the threatened housing estate they call home.

The play, which is Williams' first full length stage production, explores brotherhood, ambition, girls, community and what it really means to belong, and asks what happens when a place that has formed the centre of a closeknit community is threatened by the forces of gentrification – and whether lifelong friendships can survive. What's left when Morley's has become a Costa Coffee?

The Standard's Chief Theatre Critic, Nick Curtis, described William's script as "a mixture of the fresh and the familiar" and the language as "rich and vivid". "It’s still rare to see a play about young, Black, working-class youths on our stages: rarer still to see one in which they are celebrated like this," he wrote in his review.

The show was originally performed at the Bush Theatre in February 2022, and received the George Devine Award for Best New Play at the OffWestEnd Awards. Tyrell Williams was named Best Writer at the Stage Debut Awards, and awarded the Evening Standard Theatre Award for Most Promising Playwright, and Most Promising Playwright at the Critics' Circle Theatre Awards. This marks the Bush Theatre’s first West End transfer under the leadership of Lynette Linton as Artistic Director.

From left, Francis Lovehall, Emeka Sesay and Kedar Williams-Stirling in Red Pitch at the Bush Theatre (Craig Fuller)

Lenny Henry, whose first stage play, August in England, premiered at the Bush earlier this year directed by Linton, said, "The energy generated from a night out with the cast of Red Pitch could power the national grid. Moving, emotional , funny and adrenalised! Go see it."

Red Pitch returned to the Bush for a sold-out, three-week run in September this year, before being picked up by producers Chuchu Nwagu, Adam Kenwright and Nica Burns – the impresario behind @sohoplace – for the forthcoming West End run.

@sohoplace is currently home to the new musical The Little Big Things, an adaptation of the memoir by Henry Fraser, a young rugby player whose life changed irrevocably in 2009 when a diving accident rendered him tetraplegic. It features the first leading West End role for a wheelchair user (and the first instance of a flying wheelchair in a London theatre, we think) and runs until March 2, 2024.

Burns said, “Tyrell Williams deservedly won all five Best Writing Debut Awards for his amazing play ‘Red Pitch’, brilliantly directed by Daniel Bailey and performed by an outstanding cast. Sold out twice at the Bush, we are delighted to be welcoming this must see production, so perfect for our intimate auditorium."

Ed Larkin and Jonny Amies as Henry Fraser in The Little Big Things (Pamela Raith Photography)

In 2015, Williams co-created, co-wrote and directed the viral web series #HoodDocumentary which has had over 4 million views on YouTube, and went on to be commissioned for BBC Three, which Williams directed and co-wrote. He has been named one of Deadline’s five rising writers to watch in 2023 and is currently on attachment to the National Theatre Studio. Red Pitch is currently in development for a screen adaptation.

Linton said, “Developing new writing is central to what we do at the Bush Theatre and Tyrell's Red Pitch is an example of which we are very proud. A beautiful story of three young Black men, dealing with what life throws at them via their deeply rooted friendship based on playing football.

"It was a massive success at the Bush both with audiences and critics, and following two sold-out runs at our home in West London, I and the Bush team are so excited to introduce the show to a wider West End audience and firmly establish Red Pitch in the theatrical canon.”

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