I m sure that some marketing exec thought it was a really clever idea to time the opening of David Farr s new football comedy Elton John's Glasses with the World Cup Finals in France. It could be a decision that proves too clever by half. What football fan is going to opt for a night out at the theatre over the next month when they could enjoy a night in with the real thing?
Which isn t to say that Elton John's Glasses is for football fanatics only. While it tells the story of an obsessive Watford Hornets fan, the play deals with themes even a footie ignoramus can relate to - failure and the ploys used to hide it from ourselves and others.
Bill is the disillusioned fan whose life stopped when Watford lost the 1984 FA Cup Final to Everton - all on account, in his mind, of the glare off chairman Elton John s glasses which made the team miss a crucial goal. Now, the Hornets facing relegation, Bill is holed up in his barren flat, without the courage to step outside his own front door, let alone visit the illuminated ‘cathedral beyond the next row of terraced houses.
Then, his little brother, the ‘successful leader of rock group Goldilox, arrives with hope and the incompetent remnants of a band in tow. Thus ensues a series of events - involving Bill s lover, her daughter, a vanload of stolen music equipment and a football scarf-cum-blindfold - which director Terry Johnson cranks up to deliciously farcical heights.
Brian Conley as Bill is a welcome surprise. Sure, he s got seven Royal Variety performances and five series of his ITV comedy show to his credit, but this hardly qualifies him for any serious acting awards. His performance in Elton John's Glasses adds a decidedly dramatic string to his bow. Shuffling round the stage like an unkempt Herman Munster, Conley lurches, as required, between pathos and comic giddiness with practised ease.
He is supported by a fine, equally versatile cast. David Nellist is hilarious as Tim, stumblingly blind because his specs reminded Bill too much of Elton John s offending glasses. Will Keen as brother Dan and Will Barton as Shaun, too big a loser for even a mother to love, also have their shining moments. And Dawn Bradfield is touching as the lonely young Amy, a teenager more mature than any of the adults.
For all its broad appeal, the nuances of Elton John's Glasses will be sweetest to football lovers everywhere and Watford supporters in particular. Here s hoping the play outlasts the World Cup to draw in its target audience.