OLD BIG 'EAD IN...
THE SPIRIT OF THE MAN
Review of Play
It's been described as a heavenly comedy. And when you hear that this play portrays the Great Man returning as a ghost, you can understand why. The Nottingham-born playwright Stephen Lowe and director Alan Dossor, who's also based in the city, have given exclusive interviews for this website.
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Stephen, who has written for such a national institution as Coronation Street, said he was very conscious of writing about a man who was himself a national treasure. A man who everybody knows.
"It's like you're writing about everyone's family," said Stephen. "You have to be very careful and very sure you've captured the heart of the man - or as we call it, the spirit of the man. So I've made him a spirit, he comes back as a ghost in the play, but a very lively, sharp-witted and determined ghost."
'The Spirit of the Man' follows Cloughie beyond the final whistle and into extra time. He helps a struggling playwright called Jimmy, whose personal and professional life is in disarray. Cloughie soon has Jimmy creating a new drama about another East Midlands hero, Robin Hood. The cast arrive for rehearsals with problems and suggestions of their own for the band of merry men.
Stephen Lowe and Alan Dossor turned down a television project about Cloughie ten years ago. They felt it wasn't right. But after Cloughie's sad death in 2004, Stephen was approached again, this time for the theatre. The public's outpouring of grief and love for Old Big 'Ead was as inspirational as the Great Man himself.
"It was that sheer overwhelming feeling," said Stephen. "And it was just so moving to see how people reacted to his life. He held a very special quality in our hearts and I really was moved by all that. I wanted to have something where we can say, 'thanks Brian, you're fun.'
Alan said they decided not to pursue the television project years ago because of the involvement of "blokes in suits". In fact, he described them in similar tones as Cloughie talked of some football directors.
Explained Alan: "Usually when you're commissioned and invited to do something, mainly for television, a load of blokes in suits say 'we've got a fantastic idea.' They then proceed to tell you exactly what it should be like and how they want it done.
"The only thing they can't do is either write it, or do it. In other words, they are exactly the same as what Brian Clough thought of football directors. They know **** all! You then have to try to create something that will satisfy them. And in the end you find it hardly involves you at all. You're just doing what they want."
But this time it's different. The team is creating what's described as an 'off the wall' comedy. During the weeks of rehearsal, you sense they are passing ideas around, with the aim of achieving their goal.
Alan, who's a season ticket holder at Forest, added: "I started watching Forest in the Sixties and I came back to Nottingham in 1984 and spent twenty years watching Cloughie work. My only regret is that he can't come and watch me work. But I'm sure he'll be watching from the clouds and I fully expect to hear a clap of thunder on the first night and a voice saying, 'you've got that bit wrong, young man!'"
Stephen said the play was written in a way which would appeal to people who are not necessarily football fans. He said supporters who usually leave their partners at home for a match, should bring them along to the play.
"Brian Clough loved the beauty of his game, just as I love the beauty of my game, which is theatre," said Stephen. "He inspired everybody around it, from the players to the spectators. That mirrors an ambition for me with the theatre - to get the same kind of inspiration, life and energy back into the theatre that he produced on that green playing field."
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