Hoke’s Bluff: unravelling the “classic underdog story”


Hoke's Bluff's wildcat team. Pic: Ludovic des Cognets

Hoke’s Bluff’s wildcat team. Pic: Ludovic des Cognets

Review: Jazmin Koposhta on Hoke’s Bluff, Shoreditch Town Hall, Old Street.

A whistle-happy referee, a fervent, furry mascot and a smitten jock-cheerleader power couple.

Welcome to Hoke’s Bluff, instantly recognisable as the setting of every high school movie that has determined our understanding of the American dream.

Theatre company Action Hero, transformed Shoreditch Town Hall into a school sports arena, sat the audience in the bleachers and cast them as fictional “Hoke’s Bluff Wildcat” fans, equipped with flags and popcorn.

The play is developed through the highs and lows of teenage angst and grown up regret. Pitched against the backdrop of every cliché behind the classic underdog story, we realise the façade has become just as much a part of our cultural understanding this side of the Atlantic.

Hoke's Bluff's wildcat team. Pic: Ludovic des Cognets

Hoke’s Bluff’s wildcat team. Pic: Ludovic des Cognets

Tyler (James Stenhouse) is depicted as the quintessential school sports star. References to football, ice hockey and basketball are all made enforcing the transformative nature of the play’s central ideology.

Other than the referee, co-directors Stenhouse and Gemma Paintin play every character. The coach’s monologues, delivered by both actors, offered insight into the reality and fears of what happens post high school stardom.

The company symbolised the coach’s character with a red baseball cap, using the prop to signify their character changes.

Although effective for the most part, the shift in power was occasionally unclear when the character lacked the authority demanded by the script.


Hoke's Bluff. Pic: Ludovic des Cognets

Hoke’s Bluff. Pic: Ludovic des Cognets

Transitions between scenes were signalled by the shriek of the referee’s (Laura Dannequin) whistle, exaggerating how the characters lives are dictated by the lifestyle the game demands.

The intermittent relief of upbeat pop music and the over-zealous performance of the wildcat mascot, re-invited the audience to be part of the narrative as dedicated yet unspoken sports fans.

Two banners hung at either end of the court read “whatever it takes” and “we make a life by what we give”, foreboding reminders of the pressures that dominate small town American teen experience – the fear that they may never amount to more than they were in high school.

The play is on stage at Shoreditch Town hall until Saturday November 29. Tickets can be purchased here.


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