On The Ball at the Lowther

Alan Ball Hall of Fame Picture

For the football fan, a live match is not ninety minutes of intense excitement, there are peaks and troughs.  As long as their team shows endeavour and produces memorable moments of skill they are generally happy, providing the result goes their way.  Ball Of Fire at Lytham’s Lowther Gardens this Thursday was a bit like that, there were ups and downs but overall it was a heart warming tribute to a great footballer and everyone went home happy.

In the preview of the show I highlighted Alan Ball’s career at Blackpool FC, culminating in the ultimate honour of a World Cup medal in 1966.  This production did cover the early years of Alan’s life, and his breakthrough into the Blackpool team, but focused on his time at Everton.  Apparently the production written by Blue Park Theatre Company had been advertised in the Everton club shop, and the audience gathered in the bar before the main doors opened included a liberal sprinking of ‘Toffees’ shirts from across the generations.

The format of the play involved alternate narrative by Ronny Goodlass and the acting scenes.  Ronny is a former Everton player who now acts as the match summarizer for their games on Radio Merseyside, and a diehard fan.  I have heard Ronny on the radio and he is always good value with lucid commentary in the thick of the action.  Reading out this poetic story was less his thing, he made a few stumbles for a confident media performer.  To be fair to Ronny though the fact that the narrative was entirely in rhyming couplets meant that there were great lines followed by decidedly dodgy ones shoehorned in to make it scan.

There were a few other areas that probably didn’t work as well as they should have.  The scene where Alan’s mum and sister watched the World Cup Final had them looking into the audience whilst the action was on a large screen to the right of the stage.  Although both actresses were very convincing at demonstrating the euphoria of the occasion it was difficult to pay attention whilst there was action on the screen.  It was also a bit disarming also that the part of Alan Ball was shared between two actors to reflect the different parts of his life, but the other four main characters were played by the same people throughout.  I thought Michael Hawkins gave an excellent performance as the young Alan Ball, I didn’t catch the name of the actor who played the older Alan but I thought he had a difficult act to follow as the first act had covered the triumphant peak of the subject’s career.

There were some issues with the set.  The door which everyone used to enter into the Ball family household seemed to be permanently jammed, and there was some unintended amusement to be had as the cast gamely wrestled their way into the scene.  The force needed to do this also caused other parts of the set to wobble, which was mildly disconcerting.

Having said all of that this was an absorbing production covering a number of recurring themes.  There was the relationship between Alan Balls Senior and Junior, dad depriving his son of love to push him on to great achievements.  There was the issue of drink and gambling addiction threatening a promising career, not unheard of still today in professional football but more prevalent then.  Above all there are the routine joys and tragedies of life – young love, new life, lifelong bonds and ultimate bereavement.  These were addressed sensitively in a way that the audience appreciated.

If anybody would like to catch up with this affectionate tribute to a great sportsman there are showings on 12 October in Liverpool and 15 October at New Brighton, details at http://www.blueparktheatrecompany.co.uk/our-productions.

  • Show Comments (1)

  • Speedomick

    Wow you really took a look there ha. It is good for me to hear your comments tho and I agree with them, i am probably asking for a kick in the teeth here but how did the Eddie cavanagh come across, just curious but plz be gentle ??

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