For the actors behind this week’s upcoming production of God’s Official, it was never a question of if it was going to happen, but when.
The show, which can be seen at the Unity Theatre this week, is a revival of an early work by Liverpool playwright Robert Farquhar, most recently best known for his work with Big Wow and for Dead Heavy Fantastic, the final new production on the old Everyman stage last year.
It also marks the debut production by Odds On Theatre Company, and founders Derek Barr and John McGrellis had their eye on the script since coming across it as students.
God’s Official, a dark comedy about two friends who kidnap a goalie after a disagreement over a disallowed goal sees their team relegated, was written by Farquhar in the mid 1990s. As luck would have it, he met with Odds On at the same time he was revisiting and adapting the work for a screenplay. This shorter, snappier version has brought the work up to date.
Derek and John met at Liverpool Community College, studying acting in 2004.
Derek said: “Our head of theatre there, Eddie Chinn, was in the original production and told us all about it. We loved it, and always thought ‘we’re going to do that one day’. Now seems like the right time.”
Derek has worked in TV on shows including Hollyoaks; James has done stage work and provided the voices for Jamie Carragher and Steven Gerrard’s audiobooks. They set up Odds On with a view to creating opportunities for themselves and other theatre practitioners in the region.
James said: “It’s such a hard industry to get into, and still hard to find a way in. That’s not just actors, but writers and directors. You can’t always wait for the phone to ring. We wanted to get out there and get local people involved.”
In this instance, it led them to David Kennedy Jones, the final cast member in the three-hander, to become Greaves, the titular official.
He says the play is “like being kidnapped by Laurel and Hardy”. He explains: “There’s a lot more going on beneath the surface as well, and for Greaves, the thing that stops him crumbling is his faith.”
Having the support of a highly-acclaimed playwright has been a great help to the company, but there has been a network of others who have helped along the way.
Director Chris Tomlinson said: “The arts vibe in Liverpool is good, but you’ve got to be proactive about it, and I feel it is stronger for that ethos. Support has come through for us from neighbouring theatre companies like Spike and Hope Street Ltd, as well as the Unity, and it’s been great to have people get behind it.”
James adds: “We really just want to produce good theatre. I hope people come along who love their football and their sport, but it’s about far more than that.”
God’s Official is on at the Unity from Wednesday (June 27) to Saturday (June 30). Tickets are available from the box office on 0844 873 2888, or online at unitytheatreliverpool.co.uk.