The temptation of Clough..

A little matter like his passing doesn’t keep Cloughie out of the headlines for any great length of time, so perhaps it’s not surprising that he’s made done just that locally twice this week.  I raised a few eyebrows today when announcing I was off to the theatre this evening, it would have done had I been to see a play, but the a reading of a play currently in rehearsal?  Well that just wasn’t like me.  Until I casually mentioned it was about Brian Clough, then eyebrows were restored to usual height.

I wasn’t writing the blog when Stephen Lowe‘s excellent “The Spirit of the Man” play was running – but, not being a theatre buff – I can confess that prior to tonight my last three visits to the Playhouse in Nottingham were to see this very production.  I loved it.  It was a tad on the cheesy side, but on all three occasions it never failed to bring a tear to the eye – so I was quite excited to see what I would make of a sneak preview of the sequel – “The Devil’s League”.

In introducing the reading, Stephen Lowe himself spoke of readings usually attracting fifty or so spectators maximum, there were considerably more people who had taken advantage of the free tickets this evening.  The play will actually be on in Derby, at their equivalent of the Playhouse – currently in the throes of financial problems, so perhaps a few folk from Nottingham visiting the play will help them out by making the short trip down the A52.

Colin Tarrant again stars as Clough, this time in a darker comedy than the first play which has more than whiff of Faust about it, with Robert Maxwell playing the Mephistophelian role of temptor – set in the backdrop of the miner’s strikes in the mid eighties in a Notts/Derbyshire bordertown.  Sound bizarre?  Well it most certainly is, but not necessarily in a bad way.

It’s not always easy to visualise a production with costumes, scenery and full props – but the improvising using their rehearsal set did enough to set the scene, along with narrative from Lowe where necessary.  Without giving too much away, the plot revolves around Maxwell’s attempts to woo Clough to return to newly-acquired Derby County from Forest – with cues from A Christmas Carol as well as the inevitable musical interludes (although not as music-heavy as the first play).

Now to me, a Forest fan, finding his way in the world during this time, Maxwell was always a bloated pantomime villain – a swindler who stole money, and who – to top it all off – was the chairman of Derby County.  Since getting back I’ve read up a little on him I realise how ignorant I was about his history as an escaped Jewish refugee, escaping to England whilst his family perished at the hands of the Nazis.  Inevitably given his eventual position – he was clearly a canny and shrewd man.

So it took a while for me to get into the idea of him being portrayed on stage as an eloquently charming (and very pompous!) agent of temptation for Clough, during a clandestine meeting in a dingy pub function room near Christmas in 1984.  Once I had gotten over this though, the script plays out quite pleasingly with a balance of darkness and the inevitable quality one liners.  The only thing that grated slightly was that Maxwell at times threatens to steal the show.

It was very enjoyable, though – if surreal – I will certainly be interested to see the finished production, even if that does involve travelling to the badlands in order to do so.  Should your interest be peaked then the play is expected to play in the Derby Playhouse from the 16th February this year, allowing – somewhat ironically – for their financial difficulties allowing it to happen.  So do pop down and hopefully help towards getting them back on an even keel.

Even more intriguingly, Lowe has intimated that – having portrayed such a popular character so successfully there’s every possibility of making it a trilogy of Clough plays.  That’s an interesting one!  Whilst ‘In the Spirit of the Man’ was quite Forest-centric, it shouldn’t have put off Derby fans too much from enjoying the show, so I would say the same for the Derby-centricity of this piece.  There’s plenty for us Reds fans to enjoy too, and indeed, non-football fans.  So go check it out!

If nothing else there promises to be a bikini scene (alas denied us in this non-costume version – and it’s not Colin Tarrant in the bikini thankfully!), as well as a section of football commentary from the leading lady which was positively orgasmic – so there, if I can’t tempt you with culture, maybe smut will do the job!

6 Responses

  1. Bloody hell, Faust referenced in football blog, that must be a first!

  2. i’m sure he meant Colin Faust-er.

  3. Hey, just ‘coz we is football fans it dun’t mean we can’t ‘ave a bit of cultural references!

  4. I’ve a few friends who worked with or for Maxwell, and if the accounts they gave of his moods and manners are anything to go by, he and BC would have been the imoveable force / unstoppable object.

    They wouldn’t have lasted a week together.

    Gareth, I’ve been planning a post on my own blog that is a dialogue between Brian and Machiavelli. I’m not sure I’ve got the bottle to actually post it though 😉

  5. Do it, Paulie! 🙂 We can start a whole branch of literature and sociological commentary in the form of Forest blogging, or something!

    Failing that email to me and I’ll post it and blame you 🙂

  6. Just feel I should point out that it’s also not Maxwell who will be seen in the bikini but in fact Helen of Troy. Obviously. stephen lowe

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