|Jeff Brown, Dave Corner, Paul Dunn|
Preview: Double-bill of Plays about Sunderland
A Double-bill of Plays about Sunderland AFC
Cornered by Jeff Brown & Wise Men Say by Paul Dunn
Wednesday 6th - Friday 8thSeptember 2017: South Shields Customs House
Saturday 9th September 2017: Durham Gala.
Thursday 14th September 2017: Washington Arts Centre.
Friday 22nd September 2017: Sunderland The Peacock
After perhaps one of the most frustrating and depressing seasons for years, fans could be forgiven for forgetting about the present for the time being and remembering more auspicious and victorious times in the club’s history. That’s certainly what theatre-goers got the chance to do three years ago, when Sunderland-based theatre company Cranked Anvil produced the play I Left My Heart In Roker Park. The play won Revival of the Year from the British Theatre Guide, was shortlisted in the Journal Culture Awards, and won Performance of the Year for its actor (and Cranked Anvil founder) Paul Dunn.
Well, in September this year, Cranked Anvil are back, and this time they are producing a double-bill of short plays based around the club.
Actor Paul Dunn is back in one of the pieces, also written by him, called Wise Men Say. Celebrating the 20thanniversary of the SoL, it also delves into the highs and lows of what it’s like to support the lads, and how being a lifelong fan affects not only his life, but the lives of those around him.
“Doing I Left My Heart In Roker Park three years ago was an amazing experience,” Paul said. “It was so popular we ended up having to double the amount of shows we performed, and were even asked back to the Customs House the following month to do another by popular demand!
“The audiences were phenomenal, and the Sunderland fans who came – many of which had never been to the theatre before – were some of the best I’ve ever had in any show. I can’t wait to do this new show, which will be a completely new piece but will also have a few nods to the Roker Park play we did, so anybody who came to see that can keep a look out for them!”
The other piece in the show, Cornered, is written by BBC Look North’s Jeff Brown. It tells the story of Dave Corner, and the fateful day in 1985 when the 18-year-old stepped out onto the hallowed turf at Wembley to play for his beloved Sunderland in the Milk Cup against Norwich – and ended up being the most hated man in Sunderland for his error on the pitch which gave Norwich the goal and cost us the cup.
The story comes from Jeff’s interviews with Dave over the years as a sports journalist, and not only tells Dave’s story of that day, but also what happened to him afterwards. Jeff said: “The play itself is an attempt to explain what life’s been like for the man himself in the intervening 32 years, and if not to excuse the momentary lapse which led to Norwich City’s winner, then maybe to attempt a rehabilitation.
“Not that sympathy or forgiveness is something Davey himself has actively sought. Having spent a fair amount of time in his company, since first pitching to him the idea of a play based around his story, I can honestly say you’d struggle to find a more honest, cheerful, down-to-earth guy. Certainly not among the current football fraternity.
“As a long-time sports writer – then broadcaster – the wafer-thin margin between success and failure has always been a fascination: the dropped catch, the double-fault, the stumble in sight of the finishing line. Heroes can become failures in the time it takes you to jump out of your seat.”
Bemused that anyone should care about his life story, let alone want to write about it or put it on the stage, Davey has been happy to see his troubles laid out for all to see, and for the public to make up their own minds if he deserves the vilification he’s received down the decades.
And if he had his time all over again, what would Davey change? “You’ll have to see the play to find out.”
The double-bill of plays are on in venues around the region in September, including The Customs House, Durham Gala, Washington Arts Centre, and upstairs in the newly opened Peacock – formerly the Londonderry. “We couldn’t get a venue in Sunderland itself for I Left My Heart…,” Paul said, “so I’m over the moon that we’re playing in Sunderland with this show – and in the heart of the new cultural quarter as well, which should be fantastic.”
Performance dates are: 6th-8thSep: Customs House South Shields. 9th Sep: Durham Gala. 14thSep: Washington Arts Centre. 22nd Sep: The Peacock, Sunderland. Prices range from £7 to £16. Tickets for all performances are available online, via company’s website: www.crankedanvil.co.uk.