Shorts and Socks Included – HOME, Manchester

Fashion in football isn’t an obvious subject matter to write a play about. However, Lost Watch theatre company seize this opportunity with their new play Shorts and Socks Included, which is part of the Incoming Festival at HOME. They manage to create an entertaining comedy about what could be an incredibly dry topic.

Shorts and Socks Included Lost Watch Theatre Company HOME Manchester Incoming Festival

In 1973, flagging underwear company, Admiral, are struggling to make ends meet. The business owners come up with two ideas to restore the company, making knickers for nuns, and designing football kits. Thankfully, they choose the latter. Admiral Sportswear is born! Employing a young designer, Lindsay, they secure many prestigious contracts, designing kits for various teams from Leeds United to England. The rest, they say, is history.

Most of the comedy in Shorts and Socks Included comes from the characterisation of the two business owners, “ideas man” Burt, and his partner, John. They are so woefully incompetent as businessmen, they are amusing. Luckily, Lindsay knows the marketplace, and knows how to create groundbreaking new designs, such as the bright yellow Leeds away kit.

The players protest, “I’m not wearing that! It’s yellow!”. “Just fucking wear it!” shouts Leeds manager Don Revie, who soon becomes the England manager. A brilliantly funny character, who doesn’t get enough time on stage, Revie is an angry figure, who constantly berates people.

As the play is performed by four female actors, the male characters are played as overly-butch, standing legs spread, hands on hips. This results in them feeling like caricatures, rather than believable characters. It works in this comedic context, but means that you can’t really invest in most of the characters. They seem more like two-dimensional ‘jack-the-lads’.

As new orders from football teams come flying in, there are catwalk dance routines, modelling new kits. Although entertaining, the music that accompanies them is contemporary, Lady Gaga-esque dance music. It really doesn’t fit within the context of a play set in the 1970s. Something like the Bee Gees would have been more appropriate.

Although Shorts and Socks Included is an enjoyable play, with a decent dose of humour, it felt unremarkable. The catwalk scenes may have been intended to add some spectacle, but they just feel out of place, thanks to the modern music. There is also the odd use of a wind blower, to launch confetti into the air during a celebratory dance. But the machine is so loud, in such a small venue, that it drowns everything else out.

Prior knowledge of football is required to fully appreciate the play, as some of the game’s most famous moments are depicted, such as England winning the World Cup. Sadly, this show clashed with the quarter-finals of the FIFA Women’s World Cup, so its audience was quite limited.

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