Reviewed by Dianne Hartley
Last night’s performance is in Lion of Vienna Suite at the University of Bolton Stadium (formerly known as the Macron Stadium), the home ground of the Trotters (Bolton Wanderers). It is an easy venue to get to with plenty of parking and the staff were all very friendly and accommodating.
‘And Did Those Feet’ is a play written by Bolton Wanderers fans Les Smith (Early One Morning) and Martin Thomasson about the most unmissable football match in Bolton’s history.
It follows two families in the build up to the 1923 FA Cup Final, Bolton Wanderers v West Ham United which is the first game to be held at the newly built Wembley Stadium, the Trotters have only been to the final twice and lost twice.
The play is a multifaceted love story about a group of passionate Wanderers’ supporters who love their football, a young couple, Ted and Martha played by Ciaran Griffiths (Gary Best – The Bill) and Helen O’ Hara planning their wedding. Heartbroken parents Alf and Hilda are played by Colin Connor (Scout) and Barbara Drennan (A Touch of Cloth) who lost their only son Billy in WW1, played by Nathan Ives-Moiba, and two brothers Ted who is getting married to Martha and younger brother Jim played by John Askew (Spooks/Shameless) whose love is tested as one fuelled by his youthful exuberance of being part of the local communist group is frustrated by the others acceptance to lack of solidarity with colleagues at the mill. Bob Stott played by Martin Barrass (Emmerdale/Heartbeat) is the newsagent who walks for the third time the 212 miles from Bolton to Wembley in his newly ironed clog. Bob is also the narrator of the play and had most of the comical lines which he delivered brilliantly.
After his mum died Ted has brought up his younger brother Jim who has a good job at the Town Hall and gets involved with a small group of Communist activists. Alf is struggling with the death of their son Billy who was killed near the end of the War and refuses to go to watch football anymore as he always went with Billy who was on the verge of making Bolton’s first team before enlisting. Bolton progress through the rounds of the cup and Hilda starts going to the games as she feels closer to Billy on the terraces. Once they are through to the final Hilda makes rosettes to pay for her ticket, Ted realises the cup final is the same day as his wedding and there is an hilarious scene where Martha lists all people who will not be at the wedding because of the Cup Final starting with the vicar, then the organist, the caterers and all of the church key holders! Thankfully she has an alternative plan!
The scenes with Alf and Billy who is present on stage whilst Alf reminisces about him are very emotionally played and add a seriousness to the play in-between the humour. Alf eventually decides to join the families and go to Wembley and my favourite part of the play was when they found themselves on the side of the pitch cheering on their team. As a football fan myself I felt the actors truly created that raw emotion you feel whilst willing your team on and actually felt like I was there with them.
As the team photos appeared on the screen with the pitch and stadium in the background, Bob does a role call of the players which was an emotional ending to this wonderful play. If you love football you will relate to the passion that these families have for their football team. If you don’t but love your hometown as much as I do this tale will warm the cockles of your heart.
The University of Bolton Stadium, Burnden Way, Horwich, Bolton, BL6 6JW