Edinburgh Fringe 2018
Liverpool v AC Milan, European Champions League Final in Istanbul. Three groups; the radio DJ with a brain tumour, the couple in the ground and the family at home unable to afford the travel are watching the event unfold that see AC Milan go 3-0 up by half time, Liverpool bring it back before extra time and penalties. Liverpool then delivers every Scouse grandad a tale that will be told for as long as there are firesides besides which to tell it. Here we get the human story of bringing yer fella to meet your family, being part of a couple that is not a couple and facing your own mortality whilst living your dream with 11 players on a foreign field.
Stevie Nicol. Biggest transfer in Ayr United’s history at the time. Turned me and many of my mates into Liverpool fans for the 80’s; that and an inability to take to Brian Clough. It means that the 1981 and 84 finals were ones I was aware of and ones I had watched as a surrogate red. It meant I knew what football meant to people. I already followed a club which was local and knew what football meant to people of my class.
To take that raw emotion and place it in a theatre is no mean feat, but these guys are no mean storytellers. It is done with grace and poise as well as the recognisable characters. We get the DJ who has followed for a lifetime and passed it to his son. The joy, the despair and the ecstasy of finally getting somewhere is juxtaposed with a life threatening illness. There is the incomer, here a Mackem from Sunderland, who represents the likes of me and my surrogate fandom.
There is Uncle Kevin, the pessimist you wants banned from every living room because he, like my father used to, would decry all efforts as useless and pointless but celebrate harder than anyone when we won. There are the couple who follow, she because of a genuine interest in football which some might have seen as unusual because she is a girl… he because he was interested but also because deep down he knew who he felt about her.
There is the mother who was more interested in the ironing but would feign a lack of knowledge but probably practice the offside rule and how to beat the Arsenal offside trap with her cruet set when nobody was looking and the people whose lives are part of the success and failure of the team; their team.
This mix gave it more than authenticity; It gave it verve and vitality. The direction was spot on and the script sparkled.
Between the movement set pieces that took us from one venue to another in the tale we got the terraces, the homes and the work places caught up in Istanbul and we also got a sense of history in the run up.
Football is difficult to get onto celluloid and theatre does it so much better because we can suspend disbelief much more readily as furniture needs moved in ways we would not accept in a film. Here you get an exceptionally able cast delivering a performance that enthrals and tells the tale with reverence and sensitivity. It sparkles and zings.
It tells a tale that is simple in analysis but full of complexities as it takes in so many walks of life. Here those tales are told in a manner which leaves you aware and better educated. Now where did I put that Nicol signed top…