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The Damned United – stage adaptation of David Peace’s novel returns to West Yorkshire Playhouse after sell-out success

The Damned United is returning to West Yorkshire Playhouse as it joins forces with Red Ladder Theatre Company to present the acclaimed stage production of David Peace’s novel about Brian Clough’s disastrous 44-day period as manager of Leeds United. A sell-out success when it received its world premiere, The Damned United returns with intimate new staging, bringing audiences up-close to the sweat, fury and power-struggles from pitch-side and inside the flawed but brilliant mind of ‘Old Big ‘ed’. The Damned United will be performed in the Courtyard theatre from 27 March – 7 April before hitting the road, as West Yorkshire Playhouse and Red Ladder Local tour it to community venues across Leeds.

Directed by Red Ladder’s Artistic Director Rod Dixon and adapted from Peace’s novel by award-winning playwright Anders Lustgarten, The Damned United is performed by a company of three – Luke Dickson (Brian Clough), David Chafer (Peter Taylor) and Jamie Smelt (Sam Longson/Syd Owen/Jack Kirkland et al) – bringing to life this gritty story about the beauty and brutality of football, the working man’s ballet.

The rights for The Damned United were donated by David Peace to Red Ladder Theatre Company for £3.68 – a penny for each page in the novel – as a show of support for the Leeds-based radical theatre company when it received a 100% cut to Arts Council Funding. In 2016 Red Ladder and West Yorkshire Playhouse co-produced the world premiere of The Damned United which played to full houses during a five-week sell-out run. The play has been reworked as a small-scale production for its first tour of the UK, including this Leeds community tour.

West Yorkshire Playhouse Artistic Director James Brining said: “When we talked about the production coming back to Leeds for another run I instantly knew this should be the production we should take out for our community tour. Now in its fourth year, the Playhouse’s community tour is forever growing and thriving, thanks to the brilliant audiences that attend. I am excited for audiences to see this revitalised and fresh new production.”

Red Ladder Artistic Director Rod Dixon said: “We’re thrilled to be bringing back The Damned United to West Yorkshire Playhouse and taking it into the heart of communities across Leeds. As a story The Damned United has it all –passion, power struggles, tragedy and a classic anti-hero in Clough – which lends itself brilliantly to theatre. Anders’ adaptation captures the grit, poetry and darkness of David’s writing, and by charting the fall of Brian Clough and exposing what made ‘Old Big ‘ed’ tick, audiences are given a fascinating insight into the troubled but brilliant mind of a flawed genius –who to this day, remains one of the most controversial figures in sporting history.”

Author David Peace says: “Football itself, at every level, is drama, theatre and spectacle played out before a living, breathing and usually very partisan audience; this is what Anders, Rod and everybody involved brought to the story which neither the book nor the film could do.”

Creative credits: Written by Anders Lustgarten; Adapted from the novel by David Peace; Directed by Rod Dixon; Set & Projection Designs by Nina Dunn; Lighting Design by Tim Skelly; Sound Design by Ed Heaton; Originally co-produced with West Yorkshire Playhouse.

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