For die hard Ipswich Town fans this year is the 40th Anniversary of Ipswich Town F.C.’s UEFA Cup win and something to celebrate. Finally, the New Wolsey Theatre can help fans to celebrate this piece of Ipswich’s history, by programming ‘Never Lost At Home’ which charts how the team made it to the finals, and how their fans supported them along the way. It is no coincidence that they have run with a theme of joyous celebrations and the enjoyment of being in a crowd with friends, togetherness is a feeling that has been sorely missed!
I joined in to watch the show via livestream, which is a welcome addition for audience members who do not live locally or have disabilities that make it difficult for them to go to the theatre. The New Wolsey have some wonderful shows programmed for the Autumn season and of course, you can now go and watch them live in the theatre.
Let’s go back to September 1980, Bobbie Robson (Peter Peverley) has been managing Ipswich Town for a few years and has steadily built a team he is happy with. The team are flying out to Greece followed by some loyal fans, to play Aris Salonika in the UEFA Cup and they manage to win 6-4 on aggregate. On the flight back home, Robson sits with two fans, Paul (Richard Costello) and Sue (Anna Kitching) and shares his thoughts on the future plans for the team and asks their opinion on what he should do? Spurred on by this, their next challenge is to play a Polish team in Poland in harsh freezing weather conditions in which Robson comments ‘Robin Cousins would think twice about it!’.
The play continues to follow the committed fans and team to see how they fare when they come up against their toughest opponents. To give the play an 80’s feel, there is a live band playing 80’s songs on a platform behind and raised up above the performers. Some of these performers multi-task, as when they are not included in a scene, they leap post haste upstairs to be a part of the band. The match play is taken on by a community chorus which field players from two teams. The stage design (by Amy Jane Cook) has to be versatile, as we see that her collaboration with Lighting and AV Designer Arnim Friess brings together the live acting on stage with projected images which transport the audience (in their imaginations), to France and Poland. This projection uses a screen which the band stand behind and in its translucent state it gives a feeling of ‘now you see us now you don’t’ for the band, as well as showing a montage of real photographs of fans and players.
The sound designer James Cook helps to create a football match atmosphere which delivers the feeling of being part of a crowd once again and the theatre bangs a ‘crowd pleasing’ ball into the back of the net.
This is a wonderful feelgood true story which football fans will relish.
The show runs until the 9th October at the New Wolsey Theatre and tickets can be purchased from their website https://www.wolseytheatre.co.uk/shows/never-lost-at-home/
Reviewer: Caroline Worswick
Reviewed: 22nd September 2021
North West End UK Rating: ★★★