Monday, 29 June 2009

You Really Couldn't Make It Up - Live Theatre, Newcastle

You Really Couldn’t Make It Up
Writers: Michael & Tom Chaplin
Director: Max Roberts
Reviewer: Ian Cain

Hot on the heels of Newcastle United Football Club’s relegation from the Premiership to the Championship, Live Theatre presents ‘You Really Couldn’t Make It Up’, a follow-up production to Michael and Tom Chaplin’s original piece, ‘You Couldn’t Make It Up’, which was staged at the venue in February.

With disaster on the field and constant recriminations off it Newcastle United fans have well and truly been put through the mill, yet through it all they have kept faith – despite the constant failure of the club to consult them or even explain what’s going on. The fans now cling to the hope that the club’s latest messiah, Alan Shearer, will sign a new contract and be provided with a substantial enough transfer fund to make a return to the premiership in 2010 a certainty.

As with the first production, the play uses testimonies from football insiders and imagined encounters between the three mythical characters who have together defined the last year in the life of the club – Mike Ashley, Kevin Keegan and Alan Shearer.

Three of the original cast – Bill Fellows, Dave Nellist and Laura Norton - are reunited and are also joined by Chris Connel. They each play dual roles, firstly as a group of season ticket-holders who are becoming increasingly despondent with their beloved NUFC, and then as key high-profile characters.

Fellows reprises his role as Kevin Keegan, Dave Nellist takes on the part of Mike Ashley and Chris Connel plays Alan Shearer. Poor Laura Norton is deprived of a significant role, though, and has to make do with portraying Mike Ashley’s personal assistant.

Although each member of the cast delivers an excellent performance, it is Connel’s interpretation of Alan Shearer that raises the roof. Every mannerism and nuance is perfectly honed and his depiction of ‘Big Al’ is so accurate that it is almost surreal.

As well as being an informative piece of journalism, ‘You Really Couldn’t Make It Up’ is a heart-warming production that lends a voice to the many thousands of season-ticket holders through its four fictional characters. As the programme notes from the authors explain, it is ‘a howl of pain, a cry of rage, and in the end, a song of love.’

‘You Really Couldn’t Make It Up’ runs at Live Theatre, Newcastle upon Tyne until Friday 10 July 2009.
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