Gilded Balloon at Rose Theatre (Venue 76)
Set in the 1870s, when football was still the province of the gentry (the game owes a lot to Eton, after all) it charts the formation of a team of millworkers from Darwen in Lancashire who go on to play The Old Etonians in a cup tie.
The cast of four all favour the somewhat emphatic style of performance familiar to regular viewers of primetime ITV period dramas but to criticise it as broad would be to miss the point – any sporting story is fuelled by its cast’s energy. To single anyone out seems unfair but Eve Pearson-Wright (Lucy) and Neil Andrew as striker Robert “Bobby” Kirkham deserve to split the Man of the Match award by virtue of writing the play and preserving a sweet chunk of sporting history.
While it’s never po-faced, you do wonder what Michael Palin or even Alan Bennett could have brought to this material. A touch more wit in the script may help this show find the larger audience the story deserves. Darwen FC was dissolved in 2009 but its legacy deserves to live on.
Until 28 August. Today 2:30pm.