Harold Larwood Review

I’m guessing most of you have heard of a film called Billy Elliot? Yeah, that’s the one, the one about the young lad from the North East who loves dancing. How about The Pitmen Painters? And I bet loads of you remember Cooking with Elvis and Spoonface Steinberg. So where does cricketer Harold Larwood come into this? Because they’ve all got one thing in common: writer Lee Hall.

I reckon it must be quite difficult being Lee Hall. Tonight at Live, everyone seemed so excited and full of expectation as to what the writer extraordinaire would deliver this time (in partnership with writer Simon Beaufoy – Slumdog Millionaire, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire and Salmon Fishing in the Yemen). It must be quite daunting dealing with that level of expectation.

As with Dancer, the script that eventually became Billy Elliot, the audience at Live were treated to a read-through of the first draft of Harold Larwood. If you’d asked me yesterday if I’d like to go to see a play about a cricketer in the 1930s, I would have probably rolled my eyes and yawned. As one audience member put it tonight they “made an uninteresting game interesting”! Let’s face it, though, Lee and Simon may have written about a cricketer but, as with all of Hall’s work, the beauty of it lies in its characters. It doesn’t matter if they’re a cricketer, a pitman or a dancer, Lee Hall manages to make the audience care about the characters he writes.

The writing was vivid, I could see Harold’s story playing out on the big screen in my mind. I liked the fact that the actors, despite being seated throughout the reading, acted rather than simply reading. It was funny, it was sad and it was emotional. I looked around the audience and could see that Lee Hall need not have worried, everybody was enthralled.

What I found most interesting this evening was the Q&A with Lee Hall and director Max Roberts. I love the fact that the audience were honest enough to tell the writer about things they felt were missing or parts they didn’t like. I genuinely feel that Lee and Simon will take the feedback they received tonight on board and subsequent drafts will reflect this. To see a writer who is willing not only to put his first draft into the public domain but to also ask for advice from the audience is really inspiring (and brave).

Victoria Watson
Live Theatre’s January Blogger
@elementaryvw

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