Theatre Critic and Journalist

Review: Fit and Proper People, Soho Theatre

Review: Fit and Proper People, Soho Theatre

She’s here. She’s there. She’s every-fuckin’-where: Georgia Fitch. Georgia Fitch, who crams every major footballing scandal from recent years into a single season at a single East London club. There are bungs changing hands and guns in the changing room; there’s gang-rape, infidelity, an injunction and, just to complete the set, a multi-millionaire investor wanted on terror charges.

Fit and Proper People dearly wants to be professional football’s Enron, but in trying to kick the ball right out of the park, Fitch puts it into her own net. While Lucy Prebble achieved a graceful epic with a neat and singular central narrative, Fitch sprays her drama around and so overloads her plot. It’s not quite the stuff of Dream Team – there’s too much political impetus for that – but it’s certainly ‘Transfer Window Shopping and Fucking’.

At its centre is players’ agent Casey Layton, played as a maternal predator by Katy Stephens. Layton manipulates the club from every angle, hopping into bed (literally) with new chairman Frank Wong and moving the players around like Subbuteo figurines. All she wants is to oust manager Anthony Whitechapel (Steven Hartley with a larynx like a buzzsaw), a “sortuffeeurf” local lad and former footballer, responsible for her being raped as a teenager.

Brushing up against wider cultural concerns about media, politics and big business, Fit and Proper People is an accusation of comfortable corruption. It draws a stark division between the loyal fans, who prop up the club with their minimal salaries, and the crooked insiders that stand to profit. The case is relentless but restless.

Steve Marmion’s production goes to town in transforming the theatre for an embedded experience. Tannoy announcers call the show and we troop past fluorescent-jacketed ticket tearers before filing onto the hallowed turf of Tom Piper’s 360° design. There are half-time pies, programme vendors and advertising hoardings, but, like a champagne signing intended to sell replica shirts rather than make a difference on the pitch, it all feels like morale-boosting window-dressing.

Photograph: Soho Theatre

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