NOTE: The following review dates from January 2004 and this production's first London season at Soho Theatre.
For a few years in the Seventies and Eighties, snooker was one of the television sports, watched by millions. Indeed, the game seemed designed specifically for the box. There was a tournament every other week and the stars of the game became household names.
In all of those years, the dominant image, for many, will have been the sight of Alex "Hurricane" Higgins winning the 1982 World Snooker Championship. An emotionally drained Higgins implores his wife and daughter to join him from the crowd. Hurricane tells how Higgins got to that point and what happened afterwards.
It isn't giving anything away to say that a re-enactment of this scene is how Richard Dormer chooses to close his one-man show, an affectionate, but never sugar-coated, look at the life and times of one of Britain's more mercurial sporting talents.
Higgins, as we find during the course of a frantic 70 minutes in Dormer's company, has been through a great deal, in a life that took him from nine-year-old prodigy to champion of the world to living in a caravan, at the bottom of his girlfriend's garden.
Whether you think of Higgins as the flawed genius, misunderstood by the authorities and devoured by the media, or as a self-centred, arrogant, womanising alcoholic who deserves no more than he got should not detract from your enjoyment of Hurricane.
Dormer provides an uncanny likeness in posture and accent, and he captures perfectly the swaggering, cocksure Higgins at the height of his powers as he turns the snooker world upside down with a mix of sporting brilliance and rock-star "birds and booze" lifestyle that made him ideal tabloid fodder.
He's equally brilliant, as the piece changes pace, showing the destructive effects of Higgins' own behaviour - the divorces, the alcoholism, the stay in a mental institution and, more recently, the battle with throat cancer, courtesy of a 40-a-day smoking habit.
On an empty stage framed by a low-lying illuminated walkway, Dormer creates an utterly exhilarating spectacle as he empties the chapters of Higgins' life from one tatty suitcase after another before tossing them aside and moving on at the same breakneck speed that his subject played snooker.
The weakness in Hurricane is not the writing or the performance, both of which are extraordinary, but the subject matter itself. I think the audience is supposed to feel sympathy for Higgins but I didn't. I didn't even like him very much. As portrayed in Hurricane, he comes off looking a bit pathetic and too quick to blame others for his failings and misfortunes. That feeling, though, does not diminish great night's theatre.
- Daniel Routledge