By Harold Brighouse
8 - 13 April, 2013
Jack I know you are now playing for the opposition but Blackton have to win !
Jack's Mother is in charge really
I am glad you can see reason Father and let me marry Jack
The childeren look on
The set being converted from Library to Football Directors office by "supporters"
From the author of Hobson’s Choice.
1914 – The play is centred around a fictional football team, Blackton Rovers, their star player, Jack Metherell, and the family of club owner, Austin Whitworth. The club is on the brink of financial ruin and its pampered star player is having girlfriend problems. Fans are fretful as the chairman considers a controversial plan to bring in much-needed cash to balance the books.
A comic and dramatic tale about love, honour, class and football – lively characters and something for everyone.
I saw The Game at Dean Clough in Halifax in 2010, performed by the fantastic theatrical
company that is Northern Broadsides. I was immediately taken with the play. Not only is it
a brilliant northern comedy about love, honour, class, stubbornness and pride but it is also so
prescient. Here is a story about a football club facing financial ruin, a less than honest chairman
selling his star player to balance the books, the player himself, supremely confident in his own
ability and a wannabe Wagg bathing in his reflected glory. This could have been a story from
last week’s tabloids. The fact that it was written a year short of a century ago says much about
the quality of author.
Most people will know of Harold Brighouse for his most famous work, Hobson’s Choice, itself a great comedy immortalised for many by David Lean’s film production of 1953 starring Charles Laughton as the curmudgeonly shoe shop owner who ends up getting his own particular ‘Hobson’s Choice’. Very few will have heard of The Game prior to the Broadsides production. In fact Barrie Rutter claims he had to go to Canada to find a copy of the script. It is a great shame that the play went unperformed for many years due largely to scathing and dismissive reviews from London papers who snobbishly thought the whole subject of football as the basis for a play was of no interest to their southern readers.
However, BLT have now joined in its revival and I hope that we can do some justice to this delightful story as a tribute to Mr Brighouse himself. I have had a brilliant cast who have been responsible for bringing the tale to life and I am delighted to have had such a broad mix of old and new members, past and present Kaleidoscope members and those we are welcoming back to the Bingley stage. It has been a pleasure and a privilege to work with them all over the past few weeks. But, as always, the actors are only part of the team. They have been supported by an equally talented and dedicated backstage crew. When I presented my set design to Godfrey Elliott in the workshop he raised his eyebrows in near incredulity and for a minute I thought I was in for a very hard time but almost immediately he started working out how my ‘outlandish’ plan could work and he and the team have been brilliant. In fact, at time of writing we have three weeks to go to curtain up and the set is complete. Amazing.It just remains for me to say that I hope you enjoy our production tonight and if you do please pass on the word so we can have full houses all week.
Harold Brighouse was born in Eccles, Salford, he left school aged 17 and started work as a
textile buyer in a shipping merchant’s office. In 1902 he went to London to set up an office for
his firm. There he met Emily Lynes and married her in Lillington, Leamington Spa in 1907. He
was promoted at work and returned to Manchester, but in 1908 he became a full-time writer.
The first play written by Brighouse was Lonesome Like, but the first to be produced was The Doorway. This was performed in 1909 at Annie Horniman’s Gaiety Theatre in Manchester and produced by Ben Iden Payne. Horniman and Payne gave strong support to Brighouse in the early stages of his career. Many of his plays were one-act pieces; three of the best of these (The Northerners, Zack and The Game) were published together as Three Lancashire Plays in 1920. All of these plays were set in Lancashire but Brighouse also wrote plays of a different type, such as The Oak Settle and Maid of France. His most successful play was Hobson’s Choice, produced in 1915 in New York where Payne was working. It was first produced in England in 1916 at the Apollo Theatre, London, where it ran for 246 performances. The play was made into a film, directed by David Lean, in 1953, and it was produced at the National Theatre at the Old Vic, London, in 1964. The Crucible Theatre Sheffield staged a revival in June 2011 directed by Christopher Luscombe and starring Barrie Rutter, Zoe Waites and Philip McGinley.
In the First World War, Brighouse was declared unfit for combat, but joined what later became the Royal Air Force, and was seconded to the Air Ministry Intelligence Staff, where in his spare time he wrote Hobson’s Choice. In 1919 he moved to Hampstead, London. In 1958 he collapsed in the Strand and died the following day in Charing Cross Hospital. His estate amounted to just under £14,500