The Damned United (4 stars)

This article is from 2017

The Damned United

Gripping portrayal of a flawed football genius

Brian Clough is one of sport's most compelling characters. His sharp tongue, love of the camera and charm are legendary. So are his alcoholism, arrogance and failures. This adaptation of The Damned United is happy to embrace all these aspects of the footballing giant.

However, the story of Brian Clough (Luke Dickson) is nothing without his long-suffering assistant Peter Taylor (David Chaffer). Taylor understands his role as the under-appreciated power behind Clough's throne. He serves as the voice of wisdom and compassion trying desperately to pull Clough into the light during his darkest moments.

Dickson is at his strongest during these periods of alcohol-induced despair. The contrast between Clough's brash public face and his sobbing vulnerability when things go wrong is appropriately stark. He wraps himself in the aura of a man who knows he is the best at what he does then, soon after, is weeping in Taylor's arms.

While some of Clough's most famous quips are sprinkled liberally throughout the play, they are not what defines it. This could very easily have been an exercise in lionisation, but the decision to show, in equal measure, Clough's strengths and weaknesses is a smart one.

Pleasance Courtyard, until 28 Aug (not 14, 22), 5pm, £9.50–£12.50 (£8.50–£11.50).

The Damned United

  • 4 stars

Red Ladder, in a co-production with West Yorkshire Playhouse and Unity Theatre, presents an adaptation of David Pearce's novel, inspired by Brian Clough's ill-fated tenure as manager at Leeds United in 1974, a team he openly despised and criticised previously.