Writer/Director: Peter Rowe
Reviewer: Molly Richardson
Our Blue Heaven is a new musical written and directed by Peter Rowe focusing on Ipswich Town Football Clubs historic FA Cup victory on 6 May 1978. At first glance, the world of theatre and sport colliding may sound a bizarre and niche match, but in fact you’ll find it’s rather brilliant.
The story focuses on three families. First and foremost is The Coombes family, consisting of parents Paul (James Daffern) and Shelia (Sarah Whittuck), with their football fanatic 12-year old daughter Sue (Anna Kitching), and their 20-something bride-to-be Mel (Josie Dunn). With a wedding date of May 6th, tensions run high throughout the family as it’s all a question of whether father Paul and crazed-fan Sue can tear away from the game for one day, and if the family can even afford a big white wedding with the father of the house being a fireman on strike.
Slightly higher in class and wealthier than the Coombes, family two is the in-laws, The Tillotson’s; consisting of father Brian (Jon House), mother Eilleen (Nicola Bryan) and groom-to-be Scott (Joe Leat). With the wedding and the FA Cup, it tests what’s to come from the two families and their relationships.
Finally, The Traynor family are a young couple, Smudger (Dale Muthurin) and Ange (Katia Sartini) have a baby on the way with a due date of May 6. He is a true blue, and she just wishes he’d focus on her for five minutes. The relationship is on the edge, as she fears whether he can bring himself away from the game for the birth of their child.
While all of this is happening, we are fed a commentary of how each match leads to victory, and the way its told and interwoven really makes you feel part of their journeys to the end result.
Kitching as bright young spark Sue, whose world revolves around football, gives plenty of boundless energy and enthusiasm to the role and seems to summarise a feeling of many teens. Steve Simmonds is always a standout performer, and his multitude of roles in this production is no exception. The one who gains some of the biggest laughs thanks to his excellent character is Dale Mathurin. Playing the beloved legend Bobby Robson is no easy task, but Peter Peverley has his qualities down to a fine art, having many members of the audience taken-aback by his portrayal. Each cast member has a true star quality and bring these characters and stories to life in a way that relates to so many families who hold football close to their hearts.
It could be argued the show is more a play with music rather than a musical, as the music is merely a soundtrack of the era – though excellently executed by the actor-musicians including hits likeHeroes, London Calling and We Are The Champions. Arnim Feriss’ lighting design matches the music wonderfully too.The set design is simple, but the transitions between sets and scenes are seamless and Amy Jane Cook has created a clever and engaging set in a small space.
Overall, on the surface, it seems a niche production for a small local town, but it is far greater than that. It’s a story of underdogs, family and a longstanding British tradition. Whether we love or loathe it, Football is a huge part of English culture and while it doesn’t shy away from its lows, it really accentuates its highs. It is just a game, but it’s also about being a team and feeling part of something. It’s a heart-warming piece of theatre that above all, celebrates togetherness, and that alone should be good enough reason to grab a ticket.
Runs until 26 May 2018 | Image: