Our Blue Heaven – written by Peter Rowe – New Wolsey Theatre til May 26th
Forty years ago marked a seminal point for any dedicated Ipswich Town fan – the lifting of the FA cup – an achievement not seen before or since for the Tractor Boys. So the anniversary is worth celebrating – and good on the New Wolsey for taking up the challenge. But how do you make a drama out of what was essentially a string of football matches?
Writer and director Peter Rowe has cleverly decided to approach it in the same way he approaches most of the things he writes – put in a central story and surround it with lots of brilliant music to lift it, give the atmosphere of the time and essentially link it all together.
So this is as much a celebration of 70’s music as it is of this foot balling achievement – no bad thing and quite a relief to those of us who are not completely bowled over by the beautiful game.
The set is a very adaptable looking pitch with wide doors at the back and movable metal stands either side. A lounge set is moved on and off when needed. And above the stage the band are cleverly concealed and revealed behind a transparent score board.
The story revolves around three families. The Coombes consist of football mad Paul (James Daffern) and his young daughter Sue –a striking, energetic and very professional performance by 14 year old East Bergholt schoolgirl Anna Kitching, who are desperate to be at every match and see their team go all the way in spite of lack of monetary resources, as fireman Paul is managing on strike pay. Elder daughter Mel (Josie Dunn) is about to marry sailor boy Scott – an endearing performance by another local boy Joe Leat – whose dad Policeman Brian Tillotson ( Jon House) is also a Town supporter. Unfortunately the date picked for the wedding is 6th May – FA Cup final day – although of course – there is really no chance of Town getting to the final – is there??
Mrs Coombes ( Sarah Whittuck) is a midwife – and the third part of this triangle of stories involves young couple Smudger (Dale Mathurin) and wife Ange (Katia Sartini) whose baby is also due on May 6th. Smudger is also a die hard fan – but Ange makes him promise he will be there for the birth – but will the draw of the game be too great for him?
Between these running stories the various qualifying games are played in mime by a rather eclectic mix of amateurs forming the Community Company, who make up for a lack of sporting looks by an enthusiastic and well drilled performance of the highlights of each game.
So there’s something for everyone – but what makes this production are two things. Peter Peverley is absolutely brilliant as Bobby Robson – he looks, sounds and moves just like the man himself – and his monologues to the audience really bring to life the highs and lows of what was felt and attempted at the time. And the band is superb, led by Dan De Cruz on keyboards, playing a whole mixture of great 70’s tunes including Elvis Costello, The Clash, The Bee Gees and Pattie Smith just to name a few.
If your an Ipswich Town fan this is a must for you to see –even if you’ve never been to the theatre before.
And for regular theatre goers who like me find the lure of the terraces a bit of a mystery, there is still plenty to enjoy – and it was moving enough to even send me home with a lump in my throat.