The stage was lit with confidence, courage and power from Brian Clough, the football manager. Despite being a show about three friends, the performance was lively and full of the reality of football club management, life decisions and comedy. The narrative was set in 1974 over 44 days, portraying traditional British-Irish culture and the relationship between the play’s characters. The choice of the characters for the play was brilliant, and the words were beautifully scripted. Poetry made the show at The Dukes lovely for the audience, as poems were used to deliver the plot of the show. This new version of The Damned United appeals to both football and theatre fans alike.
Set in a football manager’s office, the stage was dark and had few pieces of furniture – a chair for the manager and a stool with his gin bottle and glass cups. There were also three shelves made of wire gauze holding football boots, a pair of black Adidas sneakers, white towels and a couple of green jumpsuits. The back of the stage had a large metallic wall, which also served as a screen for a projector to cast upon. As Brian Clough (Luke Dickson) and Peter Taylor (David Chafer) entered the stage in well-tailored Oxford suits, they reminded themselves of the achievements they had had in their careers.
The plot is based on the challenges in the life of football managers to achieve greatness. Brian Clough tried to redeem both his career and reputation by winning the European Cup with his new team Leeds United. However, there was also Don Revie’s Leeds – the team that he openly despised for years, and the team also hated him. He had resigned and needed to get his job back as a football manager of a top club as he wanted to win trophies. Sam Longman (Jamie Smelt) told Mr Clough that football is all about winning, losing, championships and goals. However, he should remember that his goal is to be the greatest manager. Taylor also asked Mr Clough if he would be happy to coach for a Division 3 club, which he refused. He was drinking heavily and blamed his failures on his associates, and not wanting to admit his faults. At this stage, he was at his lowest point and broke down crying and asked for help to get back on his career.
Despite Clough being shaken by a decision to resign from being the manager of Derby, he still had the love and support of both the fans and footballers. This pointed to his love, passion and dedication for the sport and got him a job offer from the board of Leeds United Football Club, after waiting desperately and be accused of wrongly resigning by his friends and associates. Then came the Leeds United chairman Manny Cussins (Jamie Smelt) saying whilst giving the offer the offer to Brian Clough:
“Up and down the stairs I came,
I did not meet the one to blame.”
“Down the stairs…
Along the Corridor…
Round the corner…
Into the dressing room.
His dressing room
Hateful, hateful place
Spiteful, spiteful place
Dirty, dirty Leeds.”
The play is currently on a UK tour. Written by Anders Lustgarten and adapted from the novel “The Damned United” by David Peace, the narrative takes you inside the passion and mindset of a football genius. It portrays the tortured mind of a man fighting against his limits, who still has courage and confidence. This leads to the success of the working man’s ballet infused with the beauty and brutality of football.
The production of “The Damned United” was by Red Ladder Theatre Company in association with Unity Theatre Liverpool. It was directed by Rod Dixon, lighting design by Tim Skelly, sound design by Ed Heaton, while Nina Dunn took care of both the set and the production design. The play was initially co-produced with West Yorkshire Playhouse where it premiered in 2016. It was a huge success at its premiere, selling out its
five week run with full-capacity houses. The play is brilliant and deserves praise for its creativity, comedy, and life lessons.