Last night Ann, Fiona, Val, Val, Olivier, Anders and I went to see high art / beautiful game mashup Fever Pitch The Opera at the Union Chapel in London's glitzy Islington.
The production was a high-spirited, dynamically acted and well intentioned show. It had some genuinely top-notch moments and although it was no Aida it certainly had the whiff of West Side Story about it. The music was good and the singing of a very high standard too. A bit of a shame, the sound quality wasn't quite up to the mark though so we had to strain to hear some of the otherwise very funny lyrics.
Very pleasingly for we Gooners, the writers - Scott Stroman and Tamsin Collison - included lots of Arsenal chants too; One Nil to the Arsenal, We're the Clock End / North Bank, Good Old Arsenal etc.
Rather cleverly the actors ran amok throughout the chapel and not only inhabited the stage under the massive ticking Highbury Clock but also occupied the whole of the auditorium and up in the balcony cleverly reimagining football stands.
The opera itself was based on Nick Hornby's seminal book Fever Pitch - the life of a fan with an obsession and a beautiful hymn to Arsenal. Being an Arsenal fan is as we all know a love / hate relationship. We trust our life to 11 men who we don't know. We give them our happiness. Hornby became a fan in 1968 and, although he didn't know it back then, he had 21 years of hurt and disappointment ahead of him. There was little joy to be had on the windy cold terrace of Highbury. This is the sort of story opera handles very well. The big broad strokes of pain and little ecstasy.
The story takes us through Hornby's school life, teenage years in the 1970s, university life in the early 1980s, trials of trying to teach, attempts to be a writer and eventual epiphany when he goes for counselling in the later 1980s and realises what his Arsenal obsession is all about. SPOILER ALERT: He needs to belong. To be a member of a tribe.
The finale of the show takes us on to 1989 and 'that' pivotal game at Anfield. In seeming real time we relive the game with all it's ups and downs to the incredible rapturous final minutes. A fab end to any show.
Great fun. Very well done. And a very different way to spend a Saturday night.