Not many people may have heard of Walter Tull but he was a real life World War One hero and only the second black footballer to play professionally in Great Britain. He was signed by Tottenham Hotspur in 1909, proving himself to be a talented and skilful player and in 1914 he demonstrated his flair to lead and inspire by becoming an infantry officer during the Great War. His dramatic and moving tale charts his perseverance and determination to overcome prejudice, military rules and divisions.
This Bolton Octagon production is a world premiere by Phil Vasili based on his biography and it proves to be a gripping and absorbing story of one man’s belief that we all have a purpose in this life. It may be set a century ago but the play has relevance and an importance for today as we still need to stand up for right, honour and justice.
It is played in modern dress of blacks and greys on a bare stage but the cast bring colour and life to the multiple scenes happening in front of us, around us and behind us as Tull’s life unfolds. It is a thrilling experience.
Nathan Ives-Moiba in his professional debut gives a remarkable performance as William Tull and his seven fellow cast members play more than a hundred roles between them with dazzling dexterity. Notable performances come from John Branwell as the down to earth and wise Herbert Chapman; Fiona Hampton as feisty and passionate Annie Williams and Kieran Hill as the good Reverend Dr Stephenson.
David Thacker’s direction is stunning as he weaves together all the scenes and characters with great clarity and vigour. There is a great physicality to the production with some brilliant movement work by Lesley Hutchison and excellent fight scenes devised by Terry King.
It doesn’t matter if you don’t know or care about football, suffragettes and the War, Tull is a great piece of theatre. A rare master class of acting, directing and storytelling.