If in dire need of a football fix before the imminent World Cup, head down to the Bush theatre where Mike Packer's A Carpet, A Pony and A Monkey is taking a look at Euro 2000 in the dubious company of Baz, a rather Machiavellian ticket tout and his sidekick Tosser.
Packer's dark, foul-mouthed comedy takes a satirical look at the world of contemporary football as experienced through the lives of 4 unsavoury characters- the touts, Alan, a player boasting of earning 'twenty grand a week' and his apparently ditzy girlfriend Kate, superbly realised by Lucy Punch in a bravura performance of comic verve. The action takes place either in a Soho betting shop or in the bedroom of a Brussels hotel- a transition niftily executed by Lisa Lilleywhite's ingenious set in which the walls of the bookies become hotel beds in a split second. Gambling unsuccessfully with dotcom shares Baz is on the verge of bankruptcy and has a residual stash of overpriced tickets for the England v Germany game that he urgently needs to sell.
The strength of this production lies in the four first-rate performances that director Mike Bradwell elicits from his cast. Nicolas Tennant is entirely credible as the jingoistic Tosser who's at the mercy of Baz's ruthless manoeuvres, Clint Dyer swaggers and stumbles well as footballer Alan, and Philip Jackson is brilliant as the pivotal Baz, a man for whom the word duplicitous could have been specially coined. With a sharp, witty script from Packer it's a play that focuses on football but also encompasses the hysterical media coverage espoused by the kiss 'n' tell exposes of the tabloids who flourish in a secular society for whom celebrity is the new religion.