You don’t have to be a Leeds United fan to enjoy Paint it White, but it certainly helps. This is a play that has few pretensions about being anything but a celebration of the White Rose club, and it has certainly found its spiritual home at the city’s Playhouse.
Narrated by super-fan, Gary Edwards (from whose non-fiction book the play has been adapted), Paint it White is an entertaining meander through one man’s obsession (or dedication) to his football team. Told through a series of vignettes that span the years from 1968 to the present, the story traces Gary’s personal fortunes as he doggedly follows his team through its various highs and lows.
At around two hours (including interval), there are a few moments where, for non-football fans, at least, the story sags. What holds it all together, however, is the cast of four, who are a complete joy and infuse the whole piece with fun and authenticity. Gary Dunnington, as Edwards, is surprisingly engaging as the man for whom football is a religion; a role that could have easily become dull and unsympathetic, while the supporting players – Jonny Dixon, Cathy Breeze and Dan O’Brien – are uniformly excellent in their multiple roles.
The direction, by Alun Lewis and Rayner Bourton, is lively, and the authenticity is further enhanced by the use of voice-over and noise from the terraces. Admittedly, Les Rowley’s script contains some references and in-jokes that would be lost on anyone not familiar with the history of Leeds and its football team. But that’s not the point.
Just as being a dedicated supporter brings like-minded people together, so too does Paint it White, as evidenced by the occasional, good-humoured interactions between the audience and cast, and the impromptu sing-along during the interval when the Leeds United ‘anthem’ blares out over the sound system.
In short, this is a play for anyone who worships Don Revie, hates Manchester United and shed a tear when Billy Bremner died. For everyone else, it is an enjoyable glimpse into world dominated by white shirts and Tetley’s beer.