by Les Smith and Martin Thomasson.

Octagon Theatre To 10 April 2010.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat 31 March 10 April 2pm.
Audio-described 31 March 7.30pm.
Runs 2hr 10min One interval.

TICKETS: 01204 520661.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 27 March.

The Wanderers return in play with strong local fan-base.
David Thacker’s triumphant first season as Octagon Artistic Director meshes here with a glory day from his predecessor’s time. And Did Those Feet, premiered in the Octagon’s 40th-anniversary season in autumn 2007, mixes Bolton Wanderers’ path to Wembley glory in the 1923 Cup Final with a picture of northern working society – or partly working as trade falls-off and short-time comes in, while Marxism and Christianity battle for people’s minds and souls.

If it’s more about politics than players, the strands interweave neatly in Mark Babych’s sympathetic, largely recast revival. His revival hits credit-crunch days squarely, though there’s irony in following its triumphal procession the day Wanderers are being thrashed 4-0 by Man United in a teatime kick-off.

The play’s era was one when a club’s relationship with its fans was more direct and less exploitative. Fierce local loyalty’s strongest in Huw Higginson’s Alf, trying to combine getting wed with watching the Final. And Martin Barrass’s shopkeeper Bob who walks from Bolton to Wembley (Barrass, a frequent player in Yorkshire theatres, should be embarrassed at the anti-Yorkshire lines inflicted on him. Though the biggest laugh comes from his comment on Stockport).

Barrass was in the 2007 cast, having just co-directed Dave Windass’s Sully at Hull Truck, an even more partisan, even more nakedly emotional sporting piece. Yet both are validated by having their sentimental centres right in the heart of their community.

A number of audience members searching the theatre for toilets or auditorium were a healthy sign the play’s bringing in new spectators, while its appeal’s evident in the rousing cheers and standing applause at the end – not the predetermined yowls of first-night metropolitan cast-friends nor the relieved irony of school-parties, but genuine enthusiasm for a story that touches (indeed, hits fair and square) people’s hearts and minds.

No wonder, with the final rendering of ‘Jerusalem’ against images of the 1923 team, and the cup held aloft by young Billy, a potential Wanderer killed in the War. He’s still remembered by Wanderers’ captain, as this play will be by audiences, long after the impact of greater dramas has diminished.

Bob: Martin Bararass.
Ted: Mark Letheren.
Jim: Curtis Cole.
Matha: Naomi Radcliffe.
Billy: Chris Finch.
Hilda: Susan Twist.
Alf: Huw Higginson.

Director: Mark Babych.
Designer: Foxton.
Lighting: Brent Lees.
Sound: Andy Smith.
Composer: Arun Ghosh.
Musical Director: Carol Sloman.
Movement: Lesley Hutchison.
Clog Dance Choreographer: Catherine Kinsella.

2010-03-28 14:14:14

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