The uniformly excellent cast celebrate the sport’s mix of absurdity and passion with such affection, using song, dance and mime, and the audience, some footie-fluent, some not, respond with such gusto, you would have to be a particularly humourless sourpuss not to love it.
**** Dan Cairns, Sunday Times
Oliver Cairns, 7, says: “I was wearing my football trainers, which were exactly the same as the actors had on. They asked me to come onto the stage and be a footballer; I was No10. I thought the play was hilarious. I loved it when the Uruguayan team did their funny dance.”
Sheer nerve and panache in a pocketsized space make the BAC show one of the Christmas season’s theatrical highpoints. Each year, the defiance of constraints becomes more audacious. You’d hardly think that a staging which includes a female Geoff Hurst, a black Alf Ramsey and a Jack Charlton who also appears (with the help of a headscarf) as his own mother, could be clear, let alone exciting. In fact, the audience are engaged from the opening moments
Susannah Clapp – The Observer
Carl Heap’s direction ensures that his stunningly talented cast tell their tale with unflagging panache, inventiveness and comic brilliance.
Lucy Powell, Time Out
The production involved a fair amount of audience participation and for the first time in my life I was selected to represent England. I was hauled up on stage and, for a brief moment, given the famous No.10 shirt – worn by Geoff Hurst on the day. I did not have a speaking part – or a football-playing part – but it still felt good. The play clearly prides itself on being factually precise, but it’s performed in a spirit of fun. I laughed most of the way through and was amazed at how delighted I was when England achieved the same 4-2 winning result! And no, there were no altercations with the Germans afterwards.
Mel Goldberg, England, Sports Lawyer. Time Out
It surprised me, it moved me, it amused me, and in a short entertaining interlude, I learnt more about football formations than I could ever have done by reading books or newspapers. I might even recommend the play to my German friends.
Martin Putter, West Germany, Sports Correspondent. Time Out
This highly entertaining (and informative) production hits the back of the net with the power of a Bobby Charlton thunderbolt. Twelve actors tell the story of football’s development from the earliest days, charmingly incorporating song and dance to elucidate the mysteries of various formations. 4-4-2 may sound so much gobbledygook to non-football fans, but this is a cheery and involving primer.
Joe Cushley – What’s ON Stage
Heap and Morris score a hat-trick of their own with this fantastic tale of legends…..Congratulations are due to all concerned for a thoroughly gripping Christmas cup final.
Paul Vale, The Stage
The actor, writer and football fan Colin Welland missed the 1966 World Cup final because he was on stage in a matinee at the Royal Court. Welland would do well to get down to the Battersea Arts Centre, where the latest in that bold theatre’s series of Christmas shows elevates the famous match to the level of the epic, in the mode of earlier BAC offerings Ben-Hur and Jason and the Argonauts.
A note in the programme confirms that Carl Heap and Tom Morris wrote the piece with non-supporters uppermost in mind. So, when the choreographer Darren Royston stages football sequences in slow motion, a vivid and often hilarious theatricality is achieved that would beguile even the most hardened football atheist.
But fundamentalist football fans get a funny and affectionate homage to the iconic freeze-frame footage from Goal!, the official film of the 1966 World Cup, with its patrician voice-over scripted by Brian Glanville and percussive jazz score.
This is total football and total theatre, which have come together in Scottish community theatre – although folk theatre would be better – for some years. Such shows as The Lions of Lisbon (about Celtic winning the European Cup, and starring Gary Lewis, later Billy Elliot’s dad) at the Pavilion have brought many a punter from plastic seat to plush. Yet all the English stage has had is the execrable Elton-Lloyd Webber musical The Beautiful Game.
This great show remedies that. Physical theatre, mime and even medieval mystery play meet with astonishing theatrical ingenuity and often just rank daftness (Bobby Moore is described in a country pastiche as being “Barking-born/ With hair as yella as the Dagenham corn”). Others will imitate. But, like the 1966 World Cup winners for Beckham and co, this is the show they’ll be judged against.
The ensemble playing is superb. Niall Ashdown invests Nobby Stiles with shades of Vic Reeves. Edward Woodall could transfer his Jack Charlton to a production of Cymbeline and be the funniest Cloten ever.
Jason Barnett’s Alf Ramsey, a Dagenham Churchill with cut-glass vowels, rounds up his side one by one, like Yul Brynner in The Magnificent Seven. And, speak of the devil, there’s Yul himself (Derek Elroy), one of a myriad of cameos; each of the 12-strong cast a Russian doll (and one of them a Russian linesman) with a seemingly never-ending parade of characters inside them.
Shoot me, but, as a Scot, I reserve the right to maintain that Geoff Hurst’s second goal has yet to cross the line. But when the cast of this joyful show, in the best panto tradition, turned to the audience for adjudication on that very matter, I shouted, “Oh yes it did,” with the best of them. Even Denis Law, the legendary Scottish footballer, would love this show. And he famously elected to play golf on the day rather than watch the match, in case England won.
Adam Scott, The Independent
The production’s use of the audience is particularly striking. Arguably, the audience is one of theatre’s great underexploited resources, but World Cup Final 1966 makes use of everything including our hair and teeth. The audience is not just the crowd for the matches: we sing, we shout, we volunteer to demonstrate football formations, and some of us do press-ups. And we have to admire the subtle means by which we are encouraged to get into the spirit of things against our better natures.
Dolan Cummings, Culture Wars