We Love You City had a very successful run back in 2010 and following this, the Belgrade Theatre and Talking Birds Theatre Company decided to bring the production back this year; poignant for thousands of fans as it is 25 years since Coventry City Football Club won the FA Cup Final at Wembley.
Taking place in my preferred venue at the Belgrade Theatre, the B2 Stage is a wonderfully adaptable space and is transformed yet again to replicate the prestigious football arena. Upon entering the auditorium prior to the show, we are welcomed by a selection of short stories being played over the speakers about fans experiences of where they were on this proud day. With audience members sat on all four sides, it instantly had the feeling of being at a match. Either side of the venue were multi-purpose steel structures (designed by Janet Vaughan) which had an abstract sensibility about them. They then opened up a gated section either side which were used to represent the goal as well as providing entrances and exits for cast members.
At first glance, it is very clear that the Belgrade has succeeded in bringing a new audience into the theatre. Its difficult not to stereotype but the foyer was filled with sky blue Coventry City shirts and it was fairly obvious that the vast majority of these people were not regular theatregoers. Rarely is football and theatre able to mix but on this occasion, the combination was perfect.
Before I continue, let it be known that although I understand the rules of football, I don’t really care for it and don’t know a great deal about Coventry City. Therefore, if the show could impress me, think what it must have been like for those who appreciate the references to the club’s history and perhaps remember back to that day. Was it a triumph? Boy, was it!
We Love You City is a very brave and quite extraordinary piece of theatre. Nick Walker, the writer of this inspired work, and Paul Warwick who directed, somehow managed to build a creative reality. Warwick had clearly directed the show with audience in mind at all times. It is difficult to manage that space with audience in the round but never was a single person left out of the action. We were able to ride the emotional rollercoaster with every twist and turn. There were remnants of physical theatre sprinkled throughout too which always gets a thumbs up from me! Arnim Friess’ lighting was exceptional in the space and the use of green batons on the floor was very clever as they created the pitch for specific scenes and there were never any doubts regarding location.
Interwoven amongst the choreography by Vanessa Cook that gave us the ‘live’ football element of the production, were acted out stories of fans who couldn’t make it to Wembley Stadium on May 16th 1987. The cast of eleven were phenomenal and completely and utterly embraced the piece. It would be wrong to single out anyone in particular but a special mention must go to Clara Darcy and David Colvin (Gee and Nick respectively) who showed an extra dimension to their talents by playing the piano at various points. I believe that Darcy was also the Singing Coach for the company and the hard work clearly showed during their delivery of a version of ‘Bread of Heaven’ at the end of Act One, sung acappella. Stunning work.
We Love You City is nostalgic and makes you feel a huge sense of pride and unity on a large scale...and I don’t even like football!
The show finishes on Saturday 26th May but I’m hoping this won’t be the last we see of it.