Play review by Julia Pattison: Mikron’s Atalanta Forever at Lawrence Batley Theatre
Play: Atalanta Forever
Venue: The Courtyard, Lawrence Batley Theatre
(Coming to Snainton Village Hall, Scarborough on September 17, at 7pm. Call 01484843701 to book tickets or book online at www.mikron.org.uk/tour_dates)
Review by Julia Pattison
I realised that Mikron’s play about the wonderful world of women’s football, Atalanta Forever, written by Amanda Whittington would not be coming to York on its 49th year of touring this year due to unavoidable Covid Cutbacks.
Having reviewed A Dog’s Tale at Scarcroft Allotment on Friday, June 11, I was suffering withdrawal symptoms from the Mikron Magic, so arranged to review their second show at Lawrence Batley Theatre, Huddersfield.
Both were outdoor productions, and luckily the weather stayed fine, which was an unexpected bonus.
It sent a shiver down the spine as the cast opened the show with a haunting rendition of Abide With Me; reminding us all of the terrible loss of life during WW1. Then, in true Mikron style, there was an instant change of costume and mood, and we were soon laughing at the earnest antics of ever so posh Constance Waller (brilliantly played by Thomas Cotran) as she put her newly formed Ladies football team through their warm up exercises.
Then, in keeping with the emotions felt when watching a football match, a switch of mood as cantankerous Groundsman Mr Blake (brought wonderfully to life by veteran Mikron performer James McLean) continually put a dampener on their enthusiasm. James showed his versatility as always when he also took on the role of Sports commentator, with wonderful witticisms, not to mention his caustic cautioning to Annie, when he appeared as her mother.
Elizabeth Robin was an absolute delight in her portrayal of Ethel, a straight talking factory worker.
What she lacked in education she more than made up for with her knowledge about football, and football skills honed on the streets of Huddersfield.
An unlikely, yet nevertheless deep friendship grew between Ethel and schoolteacher Annie (Rachel Benson was outstanding in this role), and we felt their pain as prejudice and pomposity threatened to call time on the girls’ football dreams.
The musical numbers throughout the show (directed by Rebekah Hughes, composed by Kieran Buckeridge with lyrics co-written by Kieran and playwright Amanda Whittington) helped to move the story on, and were wonderfully varied in style and mood. My personal favourite was Like A Bird On A Wing, with the rock and roll “Atalanta baby” refrain making you want to get up and dance with the cast!
We learnt a great deal about the history of women’s football through the characters portrayed. There was perhaps a little too much talking rather than action in the second half, but the fabulously choreographed football scenes (Rachel Gee) more than made up for that.
This multi-talented team have scored another hit; Win or Lose or Draw, despite the FA’s ban in 1921 on women playing on Football League grounds, those valiant ladies sowed the seeds that have now seen a rich harvest.