Nightingale Sings Praises of Beautiful Game???Date: 22 May 2008
Those picking up a copy of The Times today may be rather surprised to see resident theatre critic Benedict Nightingale’s name adorning the sports pages. Nightingale, a sworn Chelsea fan, wrote a first-night review of last night’s Champions League final, which saw his beloved Blues beaten on penalties by arch-rivals Manchester United.
Despite the “tragic” ending, he was magnanimous enough to grant the contest an overall score of four stars – putting it in the same league as current London productions The Good Soul of Szechuan and Peter Hall’s Pygmalion (See Review Round-Up, 19 May 2008). In his review, Nightingale draws comparisons between Portuguese winger Cristiano Ronaldo and the dancers of the Bolshoi Ballet, and dubs John Terry the “Agamemnon” of the Chelsea side.
Many over the years have spoken of football in theatrical terms, and now the ‘beautiful game’ appears to be receiving official recognition as a cornerstone of the national culture. As Nightingale said of the final, “football at its best, and here it was often at its best, is a blend of chess, ballet and war … drama needs tension, needs conflict, and got it last night.”
This may well mark the beginning of a new era of theatrical criticism. Might we spot Michael Billington scribbling notes from ringside at Saturday’s Ricky Hatton fight? Or maybe Nicholas de Jongh will forego his press ticket to Jude Law’s Hamlet and head to the Beijing Olympics instead?