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Preview: Damned United at Sunderland Royalty Theatre


The Damned United
Sunderland Royalty Theatre
Tuesday 13th - Wednesday 14th November 2018

A play about legendary manager Brian Clough is coming to Sunderland – the city where his playing career was so tragically cut short.

       OLD BIG HEAD - Luke Dickson as Brian Clough
Clough was only 29 when an on-pitch collision on Boxing Day 1962 ended his days as a striker. He had moved to the Black Cats from his hometown club Middlesbrough in 1961 and went on to score 63 goals in just 74 appearances.

Always controversial, Clough became a hugely-successful manager, lifting the European Cup twice, as well as the League Cup (four times) and winning the First Division title with both Derby County and Nottingham Forest.

Anders Lustgarten’s play The Damned United charts his turbulent 44 days at Leeds United and will be performed at The Royalty Theatre in November.

Luke Dickson as Brian Clough and 
David Chafer as Peter Taylor
A sell-out success when it received its world premiere in 2016, The Damned United is touring nationally for the first time and is being brought to the city by Sunderland Culture through its Sunderland Stages programme. The play features Luke Dickson as Brian Clough, David Chafer as Peter Taylor and Jamie Smelt as Sam Longson and other roles.

The play’s director, Rod Dixon, is very much looking forward to bringing the play to Sunderland: “It’s a footballing city and obviously has close links to Clough so I’m excited about delivering the play at The Royalty.”

Rod, a Liverpool fan, thinks that Clough would have gone on to be one of SAFC’s greatest ever players if it hadn’t been for the Boxing Day injury: “There is footage of the tackle in the production and it’s difficult to watch as it’s a bad collision. Football was rougher and tougher in those days, but it was still a really bad tackle – you can see from the footage how much pain Clough was in.

“I’m sure he would have gone on to be a Sunderland legend – he was a great player and a natural leader on the pitch.”

The play is about Clough’s attempt to rebuild his managerial reputation after he resigned from Derby County, where he had been very successful and had then gone on to manage third division Brighton and Hove Albion.

It was a major surprise when Clough announced he was to become manager of Leeds United, a team he had previously strongly criticized. His stated aim was to win the European Cup with his new team. Without his usual sidekick, assistant manager Peter Taylor, Clough lasted 44 days before he was sacked.

“Although clearly based around football, non-footy fans have been shocked at how much they’ve enjoyed the show, which is based on David Peace’s book, not the film. Much of it is about the closeness of the relationship between Clough and Peter Taylor – Clough’s arrogance and vulnerability.

“He was a complex character and as a football manager felt everything – he lived every tackle, every pass, every goal. The play has gone down well wherever we’ve been. We were down in Plymouth recently and that is a town very passionate about their football. The theatre manager there said he’d never seen so many men attend a show before, which was great.”

The play is adapted from David Peace’s best-selling novel and presented by Red Ladder Theatre.

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