Damned good show! Big kick-off for United production at Leeds’s West Yorkshire Playhouse

Andrew Lancel as Brian Clough in The Damned United.
Andrew Lancel as Brian Clough in The Damned United.
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The warm-up is over and the big kick-off has finally happened.

Leeds’s West Yorkshire Playhouse was the setting last night for the world premiere of the eagerly-awaited stage adaptation of The Damned United.

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Based on author David Peace’s novel of the same name, it tells the story of Brian Clough’s doomed 44 days as Leeds United manager in 1974.

The production – which stars former Coronation Street actor Andrew Lancel as Clough – runs in the Playhouse’s Courtyard Theatre until April 2.

Speaking to the Yorkshire Evening Post about the role earlier this week, Lancel said: “It’s easy to do Brian Clough. The play doesn’t ask for an impression, though, we’re doing something very different.

“It’s full of movement and visuals, there are 7ft tall mannequins on stage. I think we’re creating a theatrical event.

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“If you’ve seen the film Field of Dreams, then it’s about football in the same way that is about baseball – that’s to say, it isn’t really.

“I loved Field of Dreams and I know nothing about baseball and I think the same is true for this – you don’t have to love football to love the play.”

Clough’s appointment as Leeds manager stunned football as he had been an outspoken critic of their occasionally-belligerent style under his legendary predecessor Don Revie.

He further antagonised Revie’s stars after his arrival at Elland Road by ordering them to throw their “unfairly won” medals in the dustbin before he was ousted amid swirling claims of player power.

Released in 2006, Peace’s novel and its interweaving of fact and fiction has had its detractors, not least Leeds hero Johnny Giles, who won an apology from its publishers over the way he was depicted.

A subsequent film version was also boycotted by the family of Clough, who died in 2004.

Ossett-born Peace will be taking part in a discussion about The Damned United at the Playhouse following the performance on Monday, March 14.

The event will see the author being interviewed by Leeds Beckett University academic Dr Katy Shaw.

Dr Shaw said: “The Damned United is much more than a novel about football.

“It is an ambitious story that captures the intense, internal and isolating experience of being a contemporary football manager, as well as tackling male competitiveness and masculinity, psychological trauma, and the political conspiracies that beleaguer the polished veneer of the ‘beautiful’ game.

“Exploring universal themes of love, jealousy and ambition, David interrogates an already well-documented series of events, adding new perspectives to an increasingly contentious picture of the past.

“Through the controversial figure of Brian Clough, he challenges notions of heroism, questioning the significance of his fall and our need for heroes in contemporary society.”

The new play is a joint production between the Playhouse and Red Ladder Theatre Company.

For information including stage times and ticket details, visit the www.wyp.org.uk website or ring 0113 213 7700.

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