Picture courtesy of LAPA
For my third and final question, I asked the cast what they hoped audiences would get from seeing The Greater Game. Particularly those audiences who might not be familiar with the history behind the football battalions in WWI.
This is an unedited, banter included, transcription of their responses (as an aside, I said I ‘could’ not ‘would’ edit out bits):
Michael Greco: I personally, as an actor we all love acting, we want to tell a story. From the start, the middle and the end. And we want people to come away from that, to be entertained and to go through the emotions and to see what happened. And the fact it is a true story, to go away having learned something, it is an education, as well as being entertained. You know, they got their money’s worth, and they saw, hopefully, a great production and just went away going “I loved that” and they tell their friends and get people to come and see it. Because it is something I would go and see, because I’m a huge lover of football, my biggest passion in my whole life and I would go and see stuff about football. Especially a true story.
Paul Marlon: I think, you know, in the modern day there is no difference between TV and film. We know that if you are going to make something like Game of Thrones, people watch that and they then want to read the books, they then want to find out about the author or anything else he’s written. It’s the same with anything. From my point of view, when they come to the theatre and see this show, it’s exactly the same. They’re going to walk away and like certain characters and not like certain characters, hopefully fall in love with certain bits of it and hopefully from there it will spark something. So whether they go read a book or watch a film or investigate another show or, as you said, maybe look into their own family. If they walk away, in that same sense, and as Michael rightly said that normally comes from their being entertained and hopefully they enjoy something. That’s what makes people investigate something. If you are bored of it, not happy with it and didn’t enjoy it you don’t bother, you walk out and you forget it. So hopefully this will stay with them and they’ll say “you know what, I am going to watch that WWI film” or “I am going to ask that guy about” you know. Hopefully that will spread. And that just helps everyone remember
Tom Stocks: Yeah for me I think it is just respect, that the audiences respect this play. Fine, you can have your opinions about the acting, you can have your opinions on the direction or whatever, but I think audiences must respect this story and respect the history behind it and not come in with, you know, your political views have got to be taken out of it, and you have just got to respect the story for what it is, which is a beautiful story about a team, friendship, and then remembering that three wonderful players unfortunately lost their lives to a war.
Paul Marlon: Can I just add to that, sorry, because Tom’s made a good point. We are respecting that story. There are no egos in this room. I know we are only on day 3 but, you know [some words lost to raucous laughter] None of us have brought egos. It is not about us. It is about us respecting that story to start with and again, hopefully that is something people will pick up on. That we genuinely care about what we’re doing.
Michael Head: Yeah, for me obviously you’ve seen some of my stuff before. For me, I think theatre should be entertaining. I don’t think it should be making statements. All I would hope is that people are entertained, regardless of a like for football, regardless of a like for war. Hopefully they will come, they’ll laugh, they’ll cry and they’ll be moved. I can safely say we’ve got an unbelievable cast. An unbelievable director. And that is all I want, is for people to enjoy it. It’s funny though, cos my father-in-law, the last play that you saw (Worth a Flutter at the Hope Theatre – you can see my review here), he hated it, he refused to come.
Michael Head: Yeah, he couldn’t stand it. “Dodgy weren’t it” were his words. “It’s dodgy I ain’t watching it”. Now he couldn’t name me five footballers and he certainly has no interest in war or conflict or anything like that but he loves this play. Because he finds it funny, it moves him to tears and he’d like to come and see it again. For me, that’s what it’s about. It isn’t about a football team. It isn’t about war. It’s about more than that. It’s a story of real people… I know you saw a bit of a heavy bit from the end, but it is packed with comedy, packed with wonderful moments, it’s packed with bits that, today, I’ve never cried in rehearsals for the previous production yet today I was genuinely brought to tears by a moment that happened. And that’s enough. If you come and that moment brings you to tears or that moment makes you laugh or makes you smile and you remember it. On the train home, I always like to think there is someone who has seen a play and is talking about something that they enjoyed. Because that’s what theatre is for. You pay your money, and then hopefully you have a conversation on the train home or the next morning or in a coffee break, that you’ve enjoyed it. Anything after that, if you are inspired to look the play up, if you’re inspired to buy the book, if you’re inspired to see the other great works by the author… [brief laughter interlude].. to follow any of the actors on twitter, if you’re inspired to do something or it made you think. If it inspires a political thought than great but theatre should be to entertain. This lot, they will entertain you cos they’re brilliant. They really are, so that’s…
Tom Stocks: And we’ve got an average writer
Michael Head: You sure do and he mildly, mildly stumbles through one of the roles.
Paul Marlon: Tripping his way through his own lines. “I don’t remember writing that”
Michael Head: It’s a re-write, it’s a re-write. It’s not a forgotten line.
Paul Marlon: Again about connection. Yes there’s war, it’s a massive thing, yes there’s football, but I think what people can come and as Michael said, they can enjoy or get connected to is just people. Just connections. Just relationships. Just real reactions hopefully. I’m sure lots of people will come who aren’t football fans or don’t know a lot about the war, but they’ll definitely find something to connect to.
Steven Bush: You can’t be human if you didn’t because that’s what this play is about
James Phelps: My wife isn’t a football fan, nor is she of watching..
Paul Marlon: You? She’s not a fan of watching you?
[short laughter break]
James Phelps: No she is definitely not a fan of me. And football, myself and war aren’t her top things, so when I said I was doing this she said “oh ok” and I was like “no, just read it and you’ll see what it’s about”. Afterwards, when I came back she was like “Ok I get it now” Because it’s kind of, football is there but it’s not the be all and end all. The war is there but it is about the bond between these people, about the brotherhood that forms, about the families back home as well. Just that, I think, is enough to… you’re not just going after the male stereotype of the footballer, it is about everyone else connected to it on the social side as well.
Michael Head: Between a husband and wife who plan a family but never make it. Between the woman that has a child and the man that never gets to see that child. Between two best friends. Between a football manager who is like a father-figure and these people who mean a lot to him. A father who leaves his son behind and leaves that son to protect that son, but at the same time leaves him vulnerable. There are so many human relationships.
Paul Marlon: It’s the different generations
Michael Head: The cast just absolutely get the relationships and that’s what it’s about. People ask me if it is about Orient, and I’m like no it’s about relationships. When you see it played so beautifully it really does touch you. The bits that get me, I’ve got two little girls, so tend to be from the perspective of a father. Someone else might get it from the perspective of losing a loved one. There’s so much to get from it, I think.
Paul Marlon: The interesting things about Orient, which we can’t not mention is that a lot of us didn’t know a lot about the club and in the last 3 days we’ve met the owners, we’ve met the people who run the supporters’ club, and we totally get straight away that they are a family club. And here we are in this very family oriented club and as Michael (Head) said, this is what this piece is about. This story happens to be about a club that is all about family.
James Phelps: I think what has been so special is the rehearsal space is the locker room. Which, well I don’t know if anyone else here has ever rehearsed in a locker room.
Paul Marlon: I went to see the pitch this morning. You know, we can do that. We can go out and take a look. We’re going to go to a game…
James Phelps: Can you put this up after we’ve finished rehearsing?
Michael Head: Yeah I don’t think we’re allowed on the pitch, Paul. See how I name dropped Paul at the end there.
Paul Marlon: Steven was supervising
Me: I can edit this, it’s fine
James Phelps: That’s definitely made the whole experience even more personal, doing it at the grounds.
Paul Marlon: I was worried about it at first. I was really worried about it, especially in terms of space and things. I thought it was going to be a bit tight but I’m almost worried about us going off to the theatre
Me: Waterloo East is pretty cosy to be fair
Paul Marlon: Of course, yeah…
Jack Harding: But it’s helped with the camaraderie, the football side of it, being cramped in and kind of get that bond and you almost feel like we are actually a team, a football team.
Paul Marlon: It’s been born here. For us, I know some of you guys have done this before, but for us these 3 days we’ve seen its birth, so when we this away I just really sort of worry that we take all this with us, take all this stuff with us. Again can you edit that out, we’re not nicking stuff.
And that is where I left them at the end of their 3rd day of rehearsals, sorry to leave the laughter and camaraderie I experienced in that Leyton Orient locker room. That is one of the things I love about theatre, you never know where it is going to take you.
If you fancy being transported back to WWI and experience the stories of these very real people, you can find out more and book tickets here: https://www.waterlooeast.co.uk/the-greater-game