Theatre review - By Far The Greatest Team, Quays Theatre, The Lowry, Salford

By Far The Greatest Team

By Far The Greatest Team - Credit: Archant

Rob Gemmell heads over to the Lowry to see the football themed production By Far The Greatest Team by the Monkeywood Theatre.

Two forms of entertainment have been amalgamated into one to create an atmospheric evening of passion, rivalry, frivolity and meaning.

From the theatre to the terraces, the moment we step into the auditorium, we step into the world of football. Say the words “United” and “City” to anyone in the same sentence and 99% of the population will know what you are talking about. It is possibly the biggest rivalry of two football teams ever known in the sport as Manchester’s football clubs go head to head.

The round theatre was cleverly converted into a stadium, decked out with its own miniature football pitch, tunnel, footballs and projected with a series of red and blue lights. Usually described as a game of two halves, this particular match was a game of four quarters with two plays either side of “half-time” both equalling 45 minutes running time in total to truly reflect the continuing theme of football. Some of Manchester’s best writers and performers have produced not one, but four pieces of dazzling brilliance on the stage with the themes of the stories really taking on the thrill of a football match and the passion that we, as fans, carry with us throughout our love of the beautiful game.

David Judge’s intimidating performance of a football hooligan kicked us off with action in the first few minutes in an exhilarating and heartfelt performance in Ian Kershaw’s “We’re Not Really Here” aided by the wonderful Meriel Scholfield and Andrew Sheridan. It was a story that compared modern Manchester City fans to the fans of old interpreting what it should be like to be a proper fan in a sentimental vision reflecting on the players and situations of both club’s histories.

The mood was lightened in Lindsay Williams’s play, “The Stretford End” with a hugely popular story giving the audience very memorable pieces of visual comedy including superbly written and very funny references to the not-so-memorable United players of recent times. Chris Jack, Mark Jordon and Francesca Waite played out the story wonderfully with many of the evening’s laugh out loud moments in a very accomplished piece.

In the second half, the action moved to Andrew Sheridan’s play, “The Good, The Bad and the Giggsy” with an eccentrically executed performance by both Samantha Siddall and Andrew Sheridan that placed us in a somewhat unusual, but effective scenario of old relationships and rekindled passions.

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Manchester City’s title victory in 2012 was the theme of Sarah McDonald Hughes’ play, “Only Football” in which she plays alongside Mark Jordon as a father and daughter who drifted a part in life only to be brought back together by football.

The brief was for the writers to be able to really drive home the feelings and emotions that come with being a football fan and the work the writers have produced accompanied by the fine performances from the actors have done just that. As a neutral, I could still feel my skin tingling at the thought of watching a game of football and the passion that you feel for a team during the ups and downs of a match which has been captured magnificently in all four plays.

Director Martin Gibbons has worked wonders, not only with the direction of four plays, but his hard work behind the scenes with staging, lighting, sound and other effects gave the experience extra meaning and added realism to the evening’s entertainment. The attention to detail from the theatre programmes to the stadium-esque stage gave all the performances added value.

Monkeywood theatre deserve credit as a whole for the efforts that have gone into putting the shows on and also the marketing and research behind the scenes that has been conducted to add additional elements and really allow the celebration of the country’s most popular and most loved sports combined with the ever present culture which forms part of our history and makes us who we are.

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