Writers: Carl Heap &Tom Morris
Director: Tom Morris
Reviewer: Joan Phillips
There is neither a legend, myth nor hero untouched in World Cup Final 1966; a hilarious and affectionate reflection on the events leading up to, and including, England’s only World Cup victory. The jokes and mimicry are spot on and even the running time at 120 minutes is the same as the 1966 final (almost).
It doesn’t matter where you stand on football, this is a show for everyone and all generations. For some, football is transcendent. “There is absolutely no question that the world turns around a spinning ball,” said the Uruguayan poet, Eduardo Galeano about the beautiful game. On the other hand, if football feels more to you like, “Twenty-two men chasing a piece of leather around a field,” as it did to Bernard Levin, then you are in good company. Don’t be put off, you will still enjoy this light hearted show and you may even have the off-side rule explained to you along the way.
Carl Heap and Tom Morris’ updated version of Heap’s 2004 original is a fast paced, funny, energetic and engaging comedy about the game, the players, the management, media and the fans. Kicking off with England’s defeat to the USA in 1950 and finishing with the moment immortalised by Ken Wolstenholme’s famous commentary, “They think it’s all over. It is now,” as he announced the conclusion of England’s 4-2 victory over Germany, we follow the team’s path to glory at Wembley.
The world of fifties and sixties society really comes alive with the references to class accents, clothes, celebrity, deferential media and fuzzy wireless reception. But it is the gags and visual comedy that keep the audience chuckling throughout. The playing up to national stereotypes is great fun. The matches versus the Latin American teams played out as dance routines are hilarious. How can England stand a chance with their rigid national dance routines in contrast to the hot-lipped, swivel-hipped Uruguayan team?
The cast of eleven take all the parts of the main players and characters. Members of the audience are called on to make up the rest of the squad. The direction, set design and choreography throughout manage so many people with so many scene changes is a credit to director Tom Morris and set designer Katie Sykes. The entire cast have great fun with all their rôles and all deserve credit although Brain Hargreaves deserves a special mention. Not only to put right the fact that his main character, Roger Hunt, has often been overlooked historically, but Hargreaves is also Musical Director, playing a range of instruments on stage throughout, and he gave us a great Cliff Richard impression.
Complete with oranges and table football at half time, the right result is guaranteed whatever happens in the real world. Remember as Bill Shankly famously said, “Football’s not a matter of life and death – it’s more important than that.” So, even if you aren’t interested in the games on TV this summer, this production is a must-see.
Runs until 12th July 2014