The Theatre of Dreams

Friday 20th June 2014

Artistic Director Giles Croft is rooting for Nigeria. Chief Executive Stephanie Sirr is cheering on Algeria. Front of House’s Dave Richardson is banking on host nation Brazil and Steph Bartle of our Lighting & Sound team is now crossing her fingers extra hard for England.

Reports that Nottingham Playhouse is a football-free zone are not giving the whole score. Yes, CAST has been declared a World Cup exclusion area for the duration, with fixtures being screened … in any other bar you care to mention, just not here. Making CAST an enticing city centre oasis for anyone who needs a bit of stoppage time. With cheerful new furniture on the forecourt, a characteristically imaginative choice of drinks and a new tapas menu for summer that’s going down a treat, CAST (which remains open throughout our refurbishment project) is a great place to chill out during the weeks ahead. Especially if we should get a little Brazilian sunshine.

However, you shouldn’t take that to mean that the Playhouse is entirely soccer-sceptic. We may not be marking the World Cup by restaging England’s 1966 victory, as Bristol Old Vic is, but the staff sweepstake is keeping the ball in the air. After all, Nottingham Playhouse has excellent form when it comes to the beautiful game. Back in the 1960s we even fielded our own staff team: the picture above was shared by former Stage Manager Wieslaw Kliszewicz (shown at extreme left).

What’s more, the soccer has sometimes spilled off the pitch and onto the stage. New writing on local themes is an important part of our remit, and two of our biggest successes in recent years have been specially commissioned plays on a football theme.

When Nottingham Forest titan Brian Clough shuffled off this mortal coil back in 2004, the Playhouse was quick to play tribute with an extraordinary theatrical fantasia. Old Big ’Ead in The Spirit of the Man had an unwieldy title and a left-field plot, in which the ghost of the lately departed Clough repeatedly popped back from the great dug-out in the sky to pester, cajole and inspire a neurotic theatre director struggling to marshal his new Robin Hood play. But the deft footwork of Stephen Lowe’s script was matched by a commanding performance by The Bill stalwart Colin Tarrant, playing a juicy hat-trick of roles. Sadly Colin is gone now too, but no one who saw it will forget his incarnation of Cloughie: a man who was accustomed to doing things “My Way” and at the final curtain was more than ready to sing about it, as he ascended bodily through a scale model of the City Ground. Alan Dossor’s production was very decidedly a result with Reds fans, alongside attenders of every other hue.

Then in 2012, Nottingham Playhouse returned across the Trent to join in the 150th anniversary celebrations of the world’s oldest football league club, Notts County. Diary of a Football Nobody was a roistering adaptation of David McVay’s warts-and-all memoir of playing for the Magpies in the 70s, Steak… Diana Ross. The show marked the mainstage debut of screenwriter William Ivory, whose film Made in Dagenham is currently being transformed into a West End musical. Ivory located the show’s laddish heart in a touching coming-of-age tale, with Perry Fitzpatrick hitting it into the back of the net as McVay. By a strange coincidence, though, the show-stealing role of a legendary manager – this time, County’s combative Jimmy Sirrell – once again fell to a long-term star of The Bill, the brilliant Eric Richard. Director Matt Aston kept the play flowing freely, while the collaboration of Designer Barney George and Projection Designer Will Simpson framed the action as a dazzling, ever-changing Roy of the Rovers-style cartoon strip. In incident and language both, the show was as colourful as it was black and white, scoring another remarkable Box Office goal for the Playhouse.

Parallel forays into cricket with The Ashes and then figure skating with this year’s double bill of Bolero and Mass Bolero have also proved high-scoring successes, proving that Nottingham Playhouse is one of the most sporting of theatres. Just not in CAST. Not while the World Cup’s on.

This piece has been written by Derek Graham, Memberships Manager. Derek manages our Backstage Pass scheme which offers a whole host of discounts, exclusives and special offers. As a member you will find out exclusive news first and also receive many entertaining blogs like the one above. For more information contact Derek at derekg@nottinghamplayhouse.co.uk or on 0115 873 6233.