Eilidh Loan‘s Moorcroft, inspired by tales of her father’s younger days, tells the brief, glorious, flawed, and tragedy-laced story of the Moorcroft 6-a-side football club. The play kicks off (excuse the pun) on Garry’s (Martin Docherty) 50th birthday, the big 5-O kicking him into a retrospective mood. Looking back to his 20s, Garry revisits the first day he mooted the idea of an amateur club to his mates.
Moorcroft is a superb ensemble piece, driven by rich, authentic dialogue, and a furious energy. The cast, sharply directed, and utterly committed, first captures the euphoria of the team’s early victories as well as any sporting biopic. The good times can’t last, and they don’t. Subject to inherited trauma, and ingrained prejudices, the group’s unity, and individual well-being suffer. When one is diagnosed with terminal cancer, no one can find the words “I love you” in their vocabulary.
Moorcroft, you see isn’t an uplifting memoir, instead, Loan is creating a microcosm of 80’s working-class male society. Through it, Garry wanders, slipping back into his younger self’s skin to try and understand his own history. and make peace with his choices. However, for all its flaws, there’s an inescapable sense that the days of Moorcroft F.C. number amongst the best of his life.
There’s an unmistakable nostalgia to the dreamlike choreography running through memories of football matches, and nights in the pub. The nightmares won’t be banished, however, and friends reborn in memory are fated to die young once again. The Parka jacket Docherty clutches towards the play’s finale belonged to a long-lost friend of Loan’s father. The group’s miseries may seem many, but there’s an unquestionable authenticity to each.
Perhaps Loan engineers convenient clapbacks whenever the masculinity dips into toxicity, be it homophobia, or racism, and maybe Garry is a little too ready to shift the blame for their former bigotry onto the generation which birthed them. Maybe. Of course, Moorcroft isn’t a documentary, it’s a fictionalised memoir, and memories are subject to evolution, and a little tidying up with time.
However, the humour of Moorcroft rings true from start to finish. The affectionate ruthlessness of young male society fuels every interaction and raises plenty of laughs. Bailey Newsome as the group’s dighted jester has one particularly awful scatalogical misadventure that is sure to live on in the audience’s own memories. The working classes, as Billy Connolly has long informed the world, hold tight to their senses of humour, however bleak the situation.
Any sentimentality is gone by the play’s end however, Loan and the audience able to see more value in Garry’s brief time as leader of Moorcroft Football Club. To him, there are only lost friends and unanswered questions. Where did it all go wrong? Could it ever have gone otherwise? Despite the maudlin destination, however, Moorcroft is a hugely entertaining, and authentic piece of theatre.
Moorcroft is a Tron Theatre Company production in association with National Theatre of Scotland