The stage adaptation of THE DAMNED UNITED is transferring to London for a run at The Pleasance Islington from 13-18 November as part of its first UK tour. Award-winning playwright Anders Lustgarten (Lampedusa/The Seven Acts of Mercy) has adapted David Peace’s novel for Red Ladder Theatre Company, which takes the play to the London venue following its success at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.
Combining fiction, fact and hearsay, David Peace’s compelling best-seller is an account of Brian Clough‘s disastrous 44-day period as manager of Leeds United. In a stripped-back staging directed by Red Ladder’s artistic director Rod Dixon, a company of three- Luke Dickson (Brian Clough), David Chafer (Peter Taylor) and Jamie Smelt (Sam Longson/Syd Owen/Jack Kirkland et al) – take audiences up-close to the sweat, fury and power-struggles from pitch-side and inside the flawed but brilliant mind of ‘Old Big ‘ed’.
The story of a troubled genius slamming-up against his limits, THE DAMNED UNITED brings to life the beauty and brutality of football, the working man’s ballet.
The rights for THE DAMNED UNITED were donated by David Peace to Red Ladder Theatre Company for £3.68 – a penny for each page in the novel – in 2014, as a show of support for the Leeds-based radical theatre company when it received a 100% cut to Arts Council Funding. In 2016, Red Ladder presented the world premiere of The Damned United as a co-production with West Yorkshire Playhouse, which played to full capacity houses during a five-week sell-out run. The Damned United has been freshly re-approached by Red Ladder Theatre Company for 2017-2018, as a small-scale production to tour into non-traditional arts spaces, including football grounds, in addition to theatres.
Rod Dixon, artistic director of Red Ladder, says “We’re thrilled to be bringing The Damned United to London after a very successful run at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe where we welcomed fans of sports and theatre alike to our staging of David Peace’s ingenious novel. As a story The Damned United has it all –passion, power struggles, tragedy and a classic anti-hero in Clough – which lends itself brilliantly to theatre. Anders captures the grit, poetry and darkness of David’s writing and by charting the fall of Brian Clough and exposing what made ‘Old Big ‘ed’ tick, audiences are given a fascinating insight into the troubled but brilliant mind of a flawed genius –who remains one of the most controversial figures in sporting history.”
Playwright Anders Lustgarten says “The Damned United is a brilliantly theatrical book, full of looming shadows, incantatory prose and dramatic conflicts and betrayals. The trick with adapting such fantastic source material is to let it breathe and do its thing, rather than reshape it. I think we’ve done that very successfully, and had a great time in the bargain.”
Author David Peace says, “Football itself, at every level, is drama, theatre and spectacle played out before a living, breathing and usually very partisan audience; this is what Anders, Rod and everybody involved brought to the story which neither the book nor the film could do.”
Performances: 13-17 November 2017, 7.30pm, £13, £11 concs.
Press night: Tue 14 November, 7.30pm.
Pleasance, Carpenters Mews, North Road, London, N7 9EF.