Best in the World
Uplifting darts drama hits the target
This article is from 2012.
Only the other day Usain Bolt declared himself the ‘greatest athlete to live’. Alex Elliott might take umbrage with that. In Best in the World, he proposes another: a balding 52-year-old with a hefty circumference by the name of Phil ‘The Power’ Taylor.
Taylor throws darts – or, to use the vernacular, slings arrows – like nobody else. Since 1995, he’s racked up 36 world titles across three competitions and, by Elliott’s estimation, stepped up to the oche around 12 million times over the course of his life. ‘The dartboard doesn’t discriminate,’ says Elliott; Taylor’s status as the world’s best is not just undisputed, but indisputable.
This affecting, uplifting little inspiration from Unfolding Theatre knows that we can’t all become world champions, but arms us with inspirational bananas and urges us on to new heights and personal bests.
Elliott’s certainly leading by example in Annie Rigby’s production and, while his three-dart average may be a tepid 42.33 (last season Taylor’s was 117.35), you get a real sense of the diligence and discipline he’s putting into his performance. ‘I won’t use the upward inflection,’ he says of a line he’s just delivered, before repeating himself. There’s real care in the way he addresses us directly, making gentle eye contact to ensure no one gets left behind. It’s a performance that makes you aware of its own meticulous craft without ever demonstrating it, and it’s beautiful to watch.
Admittedly, his material, written by Carrie Rodney, is a little unfocused; the survey of sporting heroes isn’t wide enough to justify not confining itself to darts and the selfishness of self-sacrifice goes uninterrogated. Elliott chose to miss his father’s funeral to honour a commitment to perform in Spain, a decision he stands by, but one needs further unpicking in terms of impact and ethics. We need to know not just what it takes to take to take on the world and win, but also what it costs.
Northern Stage at St Stephens, 558 3047, until 25 Aug (not 20), 12.45pm, £14 (£10).