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Football play heads for Sunderland

Published: 29 October 2018

A play about football player and manager Brian Clough is coming to Sunderland this month, thanks to Sunderland Stages.

The Damned United by Anders Lustgarten, which will play at the Royalty Theatre in Sunderland on 13 and 14 November, tells the story of Clough's turbulent time at Leeds United, a team he had openly despised for years. His stated aim was to win the European Cup with his new team. He lasted 44 days before he was sacked.

Clough’s playing career ended at Sunderland when, at 29, an on-pitch collision on Boxing Day 1962 ended his days as a striker. He had moved to Sunderland from his hometown club Middlesbrough in 1961 and went on to score 63 goals in just 74 appearances.

A sell-out success when it received its world première in 2016, The Damned United is touring nationally for the first time and is being brought to the city by Sunderland Culture through its Sunderland Stages programme. The play features Luke Dickson as Brian Clough, David Chafer as Peter Taylor and Jamie Smelt as Sam Longson and other roles.

Director Rod Dixon said, “although clearly based around football, non-footy fans have been shocked at how much they’ve enjoyed the show, which is based on David Peace’s book, not the film. Much of it is about the closeness of the relationship between Clough and Peter Taylor—Clough’s arrogance and vulnerability.

“He was a complex character and as a football manager felt everything—he lived every tackle, every pass, every goal. The play has gone down well wherever we’ve been. We were down in Plymouth recently and that is a town very passionate about their football. The theatre manager there said he’d never seen so many men attend a show before, which was great.”

The play is adapted from David Peace’s best-selling novel and presented by Red Ladder Theatre and West Yorkshire Playhouse. For tickets go to the Sunderland Stages web site.

Peter Lathan