The More Beautiful Game by James Bugg

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University Radio York, 26 June 2011
There used to be a television series called People Do the Funniest Things, in which viewers sent in their favourite videos: the word "funniest" was often interpreted ambiguously to mean both "comic" and "weird." While listening to James Bugg's drama, I felt that I was being introduced to a weird, wild and wonderful world with which I had little or no prior acquaintance: table football. While a student too many years ago to remember, I remember there was a table in my hall of residence; it was especially popular late at night, when revellers returned from the pub and fancied some extra entertainment. The next morning the table would reek of stale beer and half-smoked cigarettes.
The protagonists of The More Beautiful Game were nothing like this. Geoff Batterson (Chris White) was the World No.1 at the game - an obsessive whose entire life revolved round practice and matchplay. His friend Alan Turner (Dan Wood) was no less of an addict, and had reached No.2 in the world before family life intervened. The play revolved around the interplay between the two, with Geoff at first berating Alan for having "betrayed" the game by thinking of his wife and son first, and then discovering for himself that there were more things in life other than table football. In particular Geoff understood that he had to be true to his late father's memory; exactly what that involved posed a problem for him. The action ended happily, with Geoff finally discovering a way to keep playing table football, while realizing at the same time that it was only a game, supported by Alan.
Nonetheless I have to admit that I wondered whether we were meant to take the play entirely seriously. The first half was set in and around the table football World Cup, the action of which was described by a commentator (Jack Roberts) whose vocal tones strongly resembled those of Alan Partridge. Would any media outlet actually be interested in the game, or was this a fantasy? We were also led to believe that table football was being considered for inclusion in the London 2012 Olympics. Maybe it would rank with beach volleyball as one of the less telegenic sports to watch on television.
Perhaps author Bugg was delivering a satire on those whose lives revolve around the game; if so, then perhaps the protagonists should have been drawn with broader strokes, with less emphasis placed on character-development. To be honest, the action did tend to sag rather, with too much time spent on repetitive dialogue: a bit of judicious pruning wouldn't have come amiss. Nonetheless I applaud the cast and directors Bugg and John Wakefield for creating a distinctly unusual entertainment.