Review of Cloughie play


The actor Colin Tarrant hit the right note, quite literally, in his portrayal of the Great Man in the tribute play. He burst into song, giving a specially-adapted rendition of one of Cloughie's favourites by Frank Sinatra.

Tarrant captured Cloughie's character and charisma brilliantly, from the moment he walked onto the stage in that famous green top and tracksuit bottoms. And it's not simply repeating the words 'young man' in that distinctive northern drawl -- it was much more than that. Tarrant had clearly studied his subject with painstaking accuracy. Even down to the way he used to scratch his head!

'Old Big 'Ead in The Spirit of the Man' was not a biography, although it did include biographical parts. One poignant moment saw him step back into the 1950's when he first met his wife Barbara. In another touching scene he reflected on his relationship with Peter Taylor. He regretted not making it up with his old pal after they fell-out.

The play worked on several levels and was not purely about football. Heaven was created on stage, a struggling playwright attempts to rouse his actors -- and Robin Hood is handed his bow. Add the spirit of Cloughie into the mix and you've got a match, quite literally, made in heaven.

Colin Tarrant

Cloughie's unique style of man management was put to the test as he tried to inspire Jimmy the playwright and his ailing Robin Hood drama. Through it all, if there was any doubt, the Great Man's sense of humour comes shining through.

Perhaps the only thing that doesn't quite ring true is that Cloughie's spirit calls the playwright 'Jimmy' rather than 'James' most of the time. You only have to think of how the Master Manager insisted on calling Teddy Sheringham 'Edward' to imagine him pointing an accusing finger at the stage each time he uses the slang version. "Your mother called you James, young man, so use it."

But I'm sure Cloughie would sing along with the Sinatra song and have a chuckle at the one-liners. When Jimmy (er, James) becomes exasperated with the presence of Cloughie's spirit and tells him, "You're not meant to be here, you don't exist!" The reply comes, "You don't expect a little thing like that to bother Brian Clough, do you?" Cue applause.

There was a standing ovation at the first ever performance (preview: 3rd June, 2005) and the audience rose again to cheer and applaud at the 'official opening' (7th June). The play's finale leaves a lump in the throat, a tear in the eye...and fans in awe. Just as the Great Man did -- and still does.