Director: Rod Dixon
Reviewer: Andrea Allen
Adapted from David Peace’s 2006 novel, The Damned United tracks the tumultuous and ultimately failed 42-day reign of Brian Clough as manager of Leeds United. The show draws its inspiration from the book rather than the 2009 film, those hoping for a repeat Michael Sheen’s lovable, rogue family man portrayal will be disappointed. The Clough in this show is abrasive, confrontational, with none of Sheen’s onscreen cheeky chappy charm. It’s a fast-paced show that will delight football and non-football fans alike, but those expecting a replica of the film should review their expectations before the curtain goes up.
The use of projection is a great device linking the production onstage to its real-life roots. An interview between Clough’s arch-rival and former Leeds United manager Don Revie is conducted by splicing original footage of Revie’s side of the Yorkshire Television broadcast with Clough’s retorts live onstage. The opening scene projects footage from a 60s football game, perfectly framing the tragic circumstances that cut Clough’s playing life short with a career-ending cruciate-ligament and neatly summarising the situation that led to him becoming the youngest football league manager of Hartlepool at the age of 29. They’re disappointingly underused, but when projections of contemporary clips are used it’s to great effect.
David Chafer‘s long-suffering Peter Taylor outshines Luke Dickson’s slightly over-caricatured Clough who on occasion teeters too far into parody. Chafer masters a subtle depiction of a man passionate about his career whilst playing second fiddle to and negotiating the mechanics of his relationship with the erratic self-proclaimed ‘football genius’ that is Clough, and it’s what holds the show together. Some have said that Taylor was the real genius behind the partnership, and this show appears to concur.
Runs until Saturday 27 October