Brighton Fringe 2014
A one man show with a bravura, committed performance at its heart, about the turbulent life and loves of Alex Higgins, a flawed yet inspirational snooker player.
As the snooker fan daughter of a snooker commentator, I felt compelled to review this show. Andy Currums’ one man show about Hurricane Higgins won Best of the Fest at the International Arts Festival last year. A play without props, in a small black box theatre space, it opens with Higgins lining up a shot, a snooker table vividly evoked. Currums tells the story of Higgins’ life by juxtaposing scenes in an Irish pub, in which a drunk Higgins reminisces about his life, with dramatised moments from that life. It is a story about what mattered to him most and how he ruined it; the play makes vivid the links between snooker and his personal life.
There are memorable moments in Curran’s performance: Higgins lying in a damp hotel, lonely, resolving to make it big in the game; Higgins attempting to mend his beloved, shattered cue with vodka; Higgins at the ’72 World Championship fantasising about Miss World jumping on him and having him there and then on the snooker table in front of the crowd; Ray Reardon as a vampire. Currums has done his research wears this lightly. He portrays Higgins as a man with anger management issues, a domestically violent drunk, a restless and furious competitor. As an English performer, he has made a decision not to impersonate Higgins’ Northern Irishness, and whilst at times he embodies Higgins’ emotional life very well, the choice of playing the part in an English accent means that nuances about Higgins’ Irishness are missed.
On the whole, the performance does not capture the Hurricane’s nervy vulnerability as well as it does his machismo, though the final scene is perfectly pitched. On the level of verisimilitude, (it’s perhaps a geeky point) despite mentioning the fines incurred for flamboyant and colourful dress sense during matches, Currums dresses his Higgins in a sober pinstripe two piece, more reminiscent of Alex’s early nemesis John Spencer, or “The Grinder” Cliff Thorburn, than of a player whose outrageousness changed the face of snooker. The play maybe missed a trick in focusing on alcoholism when an addiction to cigarettes, which he was plied with from sponsorship, contributed to his death from throat cancer.
The play has echoes to Richard Dormer’s acclaimed one man show "Hurricane", both structurally and in style, both actors playing shots with a stamp of the foot. It is no less effective for that. Andy Currums is to be applauded for his bravura and committed performance even for a small audience at 4pm on a Sunday. I recommend you catch his show about a complex and flawed tragic hero, the people’s champion.