Ben Elton-Lloyd Webber Footie Game Opens in West End

by Terri Paddock

from Playbill

The Beautiful Game, the long-awaited collaboration between Andrew Lloyd Webber and playwright-comedian-novelist Ben Elton, will receive its world premiere on Sept. 19, previews from Aug. 29, at the West End's Cambridge Theatre.

Reports in the press last year speculated that the football musical was inspired by a BBC television documentary about Bobby Sands, the IRA hunger-striker who starved to death in the Maze prison in 1981, and the Belfast-based Star of Sea amateur football club, which he played for as a teenager in the late 1960s. Sands was a defender for the non-sectarian club before the Troubles tore the team apart.

Lloyd Webber and Elton have always denied this. The germs of the idea, they say, is based in truth, taking a lead from a 1969 Northern Irish football team whose potential was never full realized due to the outbreak of the Troubles.

The Beautiful Game centres around a group of Belfast teenagers, all members of a local soccer team, and their friends, set against the backdrop of the Troubles. According to the press statement, however, the characters are entirely fictional and the setting is not a political statement but rather "a metaphor for conflict across the world."

Lloyd Webber has composed the music for The Beautiful Game with book and lyrics by Elton. Lloyd Webber is well known for his many musicals, including Cats, Starlight Express, Phantom of the Opera and Whistle Down the Wind, all continuing long runs in the West End. Elton started his career as a stand-up comedian but has gone on to great success as a novelist, scriptwriter and playwright. He created the Blackadder television series and his plays include Blast from the Past and the Olivier Award-winning Popcorn, both based on his own comic novels.

The Beautiful Game will be choreographed by Meryl Tankard and directed by Robert Carsen. Tankard was a soloist and guest artist with the Pina Bausch Tanztheater, where she created many roles. She subsequently formed her own dance company in Australia and toured internationally. Carsen is an international opera and theatre director who originally trained at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School.


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