Squad Goals, The Other Palace | Review


Squad Goals
The Other Palace
Reviewed on Saturday 10th August 2019 by Olivia Mitchell 
★★★★

Squad Goals written by Michelle Payne follows Lexi who wants to have the best summer ever playing football with her friends (and foes) before results day comes and they all have to take steps towards their futures. 

What's great about this piece is that each person has a characteristic or emotion the audience can relate to; so whilst football may not be your bag, there are other aspects which will draw you in and entertain. From Mel the theatre fanatic to Missy the wannabe lawyer and Ellie-Mae the social media influencer, there's a whole array of characters, each of whom are well identified and enjoyable to watch.

This is the third play to be performed by students of the Caspa Arts: Acting for New Writing part time course and it's terrific to see a showcase of performers in training, and new British theatre. The 10 strong cast work incredibly well as a  team and it's clear that they are loving working and developing together. 

Whilst the ensemble work is wonderful, there are a number of stand out performances. Firstly Mia Kelly as the hopeful drama student Mel. Mia is fantastically natural on stage and has great comedic timing, her performance is witty and well thought out. As leader of the squad Lexi, Hannah Khalique-Brown gives an ardent and charismatic performance as she races forward to fight inequality between women's and men's football and break barriers between social groups in her local area. As a character, Lexi is very truthful as she steps up to the plate without being over the top or unbelievable, something Khalique-Brown emphasises well. 

The influencers who are forever taking selfies and posting #ad posts are everywhere you look these days and Sophia de Souza brings the squad's resident 'It Girl' Ellie-Mae Hague to life with a marvellous balance of humour and kindness. Whilst Ellie-Mae is extra in every sense of the word, she is also a team player and the bond she has with the other girls is put across very well by de Souza, as is the compassion she shows as she influences the union of the groups. Lauren Cooper also shines as the dippy Sharky who is charming throughout and naturally gets the audience on her side.

Elsewhere, Emily Clark gives a strong performance as Amanda and has a great chemistry with Verona Smith as Missy who delivers some great one-liners and bounces off the other girls well.  Morag Davies is suitably feisty as Scrappy-Doo and Stephanie Stevens gives a well nuanced portrayal of Misha who is consistently fighting for equality but also longs for a group of friends to share her triumphs with. Antonio Ayuso provides comedic moments as he tries to prove himself to be a "man's man", Clara Mainardi is greatly mysterious as Assassina and as a whole the cast are very strong.

The use of movement is very effective in this piece, with the opening scene giving Spring Awakening vibes as the women approach the issues they face not only in football but in life. Throughout there are entertaining passages where the cast transition from one place to another or highlight specific feelings through sharp movement. This does well to both further the story and keep the intensity high from start to finish. 

In a time when the world seems pretty dark, it's lovely to see such an uplifting piece of theatre that highlights the importance of passion, hard work and friendship. Of course this is the beginning stages for Squad Goals and there's certainly room to pad out the story and establish the characters a bit more but overall, this is a really enjoyable hour, with a company of fantastic promise. Hopefully the show gets the further development it deserves and we don't see the end of this female story.

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