Bottleneck

On Saturday April 15th 1989, over 3000 faithful Liverpool FC supporters made the journey to Sheffield Wednesday’s home ground of Hillsborough to see their team take on Nottingham Forrest in the FA cup semi-final. What should have been a normal Saturday of sport turned into a tragedy. 766 fans were injured and 96 never came home again. The events of Hillsborough are once again in the public focus following the release of the Hillsborough Independent Panel Report. Bottleneck joins a variety of productions spurred by these new inquests, but this show stands out. For once, it’s not about the politics, the cover ups, or the long fight for justice. This is a moving, personal story.

The final 10 minutes of play are a tour de force in accomplished writing, performing, and direction as Greg vents his grief for friends lost to forces beyond his control

Bottleneck is a one-man show focusing on Greg, a young football-loving lad growing up in 80s Liverpool. Greg’s favourite sport is tarred by hooliganism, but for him it’s about discovering who you are and creating relationships. Unfortunately, Greg’s relationship with his father is often marred by violence as Greg pushes him to the limits. Greg is grounded but sneaks out and heads for Hillsborough. The play takes us through the build-up to the tragedy, its dramatic unfolding, and its aftermath. Hillsborough leaves not only one young man but an entire generation changed forever.

Luke Barnes’ script is taut and emotionally flowing, but on occasion relies a bit too heavily on homophobic slang, which can be uncomfortable. It does, however, make the audience realise how easy it was for the police force to paint fans as culprits in the tragedy, even though blame rested solely on the shoulders of those in charge of an unsafe football stadium.

James Cooney delivers a powerhouse performance as Greg, fully conveying the excitement of youth and the sobering realisation that a life can end in a flash. The final 10 minutes of play are a tour de force in accomplished writing, performing, and direction as Greg vents his grief for friends lost to forces beyond his control.

This play’s honesty truly shines. Bottleneck makes for an unforgettable hour at the Fringe and leaves audiences aware that the Hillsborough victims deserved better. Now, at long last, it seems justice is within sight and this show makes for a moving tribute.

Reviews by Brett Herriot

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Performances

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The Blurb

Back by popular demand, HighTide Festival Theatre presents Bottleneck by Luke Barnes. ‘Bottleneck is an outstanding play’ **** (Telegraph). Am I a virgin? I think I am. I mean it went in her but it was floppy and not very nice so I think I'm a virgin. I'm going to say I am. Will look better on my uni applications. Liverpool, 1989. Greg is fourteen. He earns pocket money sweeping up hair in barbers. Girls are aliens. Liverpool FC is everything. 'Performed with poise and seemingly endless energy by James Cooney' **** (Scotsman).