Review: The Damned United, Derby Theatre

There’s no doubting Brian Clough is a Derby hero. We have a bronze statue and a road named in his honour.

Many would give anything to bring him and those glory days back to the city.

This week a vivid portrayal of the cock-sure Cloughie we all knew is being played out on stage at Derby Theatre and it is a must-see for any Derby County fan.

And that’s not to say you have to be into football to enjoy The Damned United because it is a fantastically crafted piece of theatre that delves into what lies behind male rivalry, obsession and the brutality of power.

Adapted from David Peace’s novel of the same name by Anders Lustgarten for the Red Ladder Theatre Company, the play explores why the arrogant Clough only lasted 44 days in charge of Leeds United.

It is quite different to the film version of the book and much more faithful to the darker side of the text.

Old Big ‘ead produced more memorable quotes in a day than most people manage in a lifetime and many of them find their way into this production which takes you deep inside the contradictory egomanical mind of the football manager.

The action is played out on a bare black stage edged by a white touchline, flanked by towers cleverly used to project flashback footage of Clough and his co-manager Peter Taylor’s glory days at Hartlepool and Derby and the disaster at Leeds brought about by his destructive antagonism towards Don Revie.

An 11-strong ensemble take on the role of the footballers using physical theatre to convey the beautiful game played by Derby and static mannequins to  portray the defiant, brooding Leeds squad.

Andrew Lancel is one-man managerial tornado on stage and while not impersonating Clough he does bring to life his downright cheekiness, and high handedness that we all remember.

In clear contrast to the emotional outpouring from Clough we had his right-hand-man Taylor played by Tony Bell. He was responsible for much of the narration and delivered an engaging performance.

If you haven’t got a ticket already put it on to your to-do list for today.

The rest of the cast were John Graham Davies, Tom Lorcan, Tony Turner, Charlie Brentnall, Elenor Fields, Josh Birchall, Rebecca-Jay Fearn, Ophelia Januszewski, Laura Ryder, Grace Waugh Scott, Malene Becker Nielsen, Ioannis Economides, Alexandra Mettam and Victoria Pollitt.

The director was Rod Dixon and the set designer Signe Beckman.

The Damned United is at Derby Theatre until April 16 for tickets go to http://www.derbytheatre.co.uk

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