By James Grayson (Twitter - @jamesAgrayson)
Don’t kidnap a football referee after a bad decision as they never change their minds. That’s what Degsy (Keith Hukin) and Cliff (Matthew Booth) found out during the botched kidnap of referee Greaves (Stephen Crane) in the excellent God's Official.
Inside the small and cosy Harrogate Studio Theatre, the audience are gripped as Degsy and Cliff struggle to cope with Greaves, who they discover is annoying off-the-pitch as well as on it. There are non-stop laughs throughout the Reform Theatre Company production and Cliff and ringleader Degsy’s description of the ‘goal that was not goal’ gets the play off to a fine start. You almost feel that you are there inside a stadium watching the game.
The decision to kidnap Greaves and make him replay the game comes after Cliff and Degsy’s team are relegated following a controversially disallowed goal. Degsy decides to take matters into his own hands and goes round to the referee’s house (after finding his address in the phone book) and take him hostage. The humour comes out as Greaves describes his kidnapping. He nearly escaped, but forget he had recently had an inside door fitted and knocked himself out on it as he tried to get away, which gets the audience laughing.
Degsy makes Greaves relieve the disallowed goal hundreds of times in an effort to persuade him that it should have been allowed as Cliff stands watching and wishing he wasn’t there. Cliff, who did not want to be involved, tries to walk away on several occasions. But he still ends up driving Degsy and Greaves to a different location in his van, which has his phone number on the side.
The change in place allows Greaves a second escape attempt, but this time he is halted by hilariously halted after sliding on some dog poo. He is then taken to the church for the finale.
And even as the play looks set to end on a sad note, the play is pulled back from tragedy and ends on a humorous note as Degsy faces up to his crime.
While there are serious moments, God’s Official is a laugh-out comed and for any football fan, it is a must-see. However, there is a disclaimer: don’t follow Degsy and Cliff’s lead if a referee makes a bad decision during your team’s match.
God’s Official runs at Harrogate Studio Theatre until March 16th.