Friday, 27 February 2009

You Couldn’t Make It Up - Live Theatre, Newcastle Upon Tyne

You Couldn’t Make It Up By Michael and Tom Chaplin
Director: Max Roberts
Reviewer:Ian Cain

The recent furore that has surrounded Newcastle United Football Club now forms the dramatic backbone of a fascinating new play by father and son writing partnership, Michael and Tom Chaplin. Drawing on verbatim testimony from a wide variety of sources, including journalists, social commentators, politicians, football pundits and fans, the production takes a bitingly satirical swipe at one of the most turbulent seasons in the history of the football club.

The cast of four – Mark Benton, Bill Fellows, Davie Nellist and Laura Norton – each deliver fine performances as they take on the guise of four disillusioned fans of ‘The Magpies’, before switching to portray key characters involved in the power struggle between ‘Cockney’ club owner Mike Ashley and ‘Messiah’ manager, Kevin Keegan.

Benton and Fellows’ performances, as Ashley and Keegan respectively, are convincing and compelling. The scenes between them, which are the result of some astute speculative imagination by the Chaplin’s, are tense, taut and terrifically acted. The fact that this is a script-in-hand production does not detract in any way from the content. Moreover, the scripts are a necessity as the writing is amended and updated to incorporate any new developments in the ongoing saga.

The set is minimalist, comprising four chairs, two black and two white, and a pair of television screens, which are suspended above, displaying relevant facts and significant images. The actors all wear Newcastle United strips.Consummate direction from Max Roberts allows the rawness and intensity of the writing to penetrate the auditorium with an immediacy that is tangible.
Although it may seem to be a piece of theatre that only strikes a chord with football fans, the appeal of You Couldn’t Make It Up is more far-reaching than that. It doesn’t matter that you may not be a follower of ‘The Toon Army’, or of football at all for that matter, this dramatic mix of fact and fiction demands and retains the attention of the audience for the entire ninety minutes.

You Couldn't Make It UP runs at the Live Theatre until Sunday 1st March 2009
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