Edinburgh Fringe 2011
How Steeple Sinderby Wanderers Won the FA Cup is the stuff of 1950’s boys’ comics. Its from a world long gone, both in football and the countryside. A world of deference and defiance, this play celebrates the underdog. And for once, we get to win.
Adapted from the original book by J L Carr, Fringe First award winner Paul Hodson has written a nostalgic piece about a world long gone. Steeple Sinderby, a village in the Fens, has a very poor football team in the 1950’s. With the support of the local landowner and farmer, a variety of misfits who have one way or another arrived in the village take hold of the team and turn it into the most unlikely winners of the FA Cup.
Unbelievable? Of course. Unlikely? Absolutely. Irrelevant? Not at all.
For what lies underneath this story is a tale of David and Goliath, of the little person taking on the powerful, of the dispossessed challenging the mighty. And winning! This is a play about power, and class, about social relationships in the countryside. And it is beautifully done.
Mark Jardine is the single actor telling this tale. He is an accomplished professional who seems to relish the opportunity to play a variety of different roles, which he does to different effects. At his best he is very good indeed. The staging is simple, effective and very well done. A painting of the flat fenlands is the backdrop to a goalpost on which are hung a set of shirts to represent the team and the individual members of it.
The whole thing is a delightful homage to a world of football long gone. Football when it was heard on the radio on a Saturday afternoon. Football commentators with a plum in their mouths. Radios which hissed and crackled with static, and delivered words hung on by a crowd of incredulous listeners as Steeple Sinderby Wanderers progress through the qualifying rounds, to the FA Cup proper, and then the glorious final against the mighty Wolverhampton Wanderers. (Yes, it really was like that a long time ago!).
And in the telling of the story are a whole series of acute observations about life in post war Britain; a world ostensibly of black and white, but which was actually shades of rather dirty grey.
Pieces like this are the solid standard theatre fare on which edinburgh built its reputation. It deserves your support. You in turn will be rewarded with a piece of theatre which is honest, straightforward, imaginative. And a pleasure to be at.