The Season Ticket – Northern Stage

In search of The Season Ticket!
This Northern Stage adaptation of Jonathan Tulloch’s novel ‘The Season Ticket’, by Lee Mattison happily exceeded my expectations. Yes, it’s about that Newcastle United Football Club obsession, which is difficult for us non football followers to fathom, but ‘The Season Ticket’ is about much more than that. It’s about faith, life, love and loss, and ultimately hope.
Although ‘The Season Ticket’ started life as a novel it has since been made into the film ‘Purely Belter’ as well as serialised on Radio 4. Somehow I have managed to miss all these versions, and so came to the stage show with fresh eyes and no expectations.
Sewell steals a microwave

Football is more popular than religion in Newcastle and is the lifeblood of the city or the ‘Toon’ as it is affectionately known. St Jame’s Park is the Mecca of football in these parts and worship happens on match days by the faithful followers – the ‘Toon Army.’ The two lads at the centre of our story are Gerry and Sewell. They are ordinary Geordie teenagers without much education or money but with a passion for football. Their quest is to somehow raise enough money to buy them each a season ticket for Newcastle United. A season ticket is an expensive commodity, and the huge sum of £1,000 in total, represents their goal and their seemingly impossible dream.

It’s grand in the stands!

Both boys have fractured families to deal with. Gerry’s father is a violent drunk and his sister has gone missing, while  Sewell’s mother has died leaving his father devastated and struggling. Football offers them a family they can always rely on. In black and white shirts.
The set is spare and functional but well designed, and quickly creates spaces for the different scenes and works nicely with the pacy script.

Dan the locksmith turns up

There is quite a lot of bad language in the play but it is not particularly gratuitous, and often very funny. This play has some lovely witty lines in it which we very much enjoyed. I know what Sewell means when he says his Dad is not ‘up to the big shop at ASDA’ – I feel the same most days. And when Gerry’s mum, with  a cracking hangover asks him to put the ‘big light’ out and he says ”I would if it wasn’t the sun!’- how we chortled. It’s very northern humour and in my opinion, this sharp, self deprecating life view is one of the most redeeming features of being brought up and living in the North of England.
People go missing from these boys lives and their loss is not replaced nor repaired – but they have each other and that rock solid friendship which they both value.

The boys are on the scam..

When Sewell says he only knew his Nana was still alive because she turned up on Britain’s Got Talent, it is as close to a modern British cultural reference as you are probably going to get.
The humour is the real strength of this production but there are also some fine performances with lots of energy which keeps the audience completely engaged.

Match euphoria

Victoria Elliot has a comic gift as Dee, Gerry’s mam and both the boys really grew on me as the play progressed. Kevin Wathen (last seen groaning his last in Get Carter) was smashing as the steady step dad Dan and the shouty Headmaster of the school that Gerry never bothers going to. Joe Caffrey, I really liked as the truant officer and he was pretty convincing as Gerry’s  horrible violent, sexually abusive father, who reappears, takes all the money they’ve saved and gives everyone a good hiding to boot.

Fatherly concern

The black humour sits sometimes slightly uncomfortably alongside the tragic elements of the story. Gerry will never have the kind of Dad that takes him to the match and buys him tea in a polystyrene cup and really cares about him. But then, that’s what black humour is for, and can make the unbearable just that bit easier to live with.

Gemma appeals to Gerry

If there is one criticism, it is that these stereotypes of Geordies and ‘it’s grim up North’ life in Newcastle can sometimes wear a bit thin. But as long as you are aware of that then you can enter the Magpie world of Gerry and Sewell and see life through their eyes. A moving and funny play with lots going on and plenty of laughs, I’d go and see it while you can.
You can catch the Season Ticket at Northern Stage in Newcastle until the 8th October and then in York, Winchester and Dundee. Check out next performances here