New Sir Bobby Play "Very Inspirational"
Thursday, 13th Jun 2019 10:35
A new play, Bobby Robson Saved My Life, visits Ipswich’s Regent Theatre on July 31st, the 10th anniversary of the legendary Town, Newcastle and England boss’s death, and actor Charlie Richmond told TWTD what to expect.
“It’s not all about football, it’s about Sir Bobby and people he’s come into contact with throughout his life,” Richmond said.
“I don’t want to spoil it too much but there are three main characters in it and I play Mark. I’m an ex-footballer who met Sir Bobby at Ipswich when I was in the academy and he was running Ipswich’s first team.
“Then there’s a character called Claire and he influences her in a certain way. And then there’s an older guy in it called Tommy, who was actually one of Bobby’s really, really close friends.
“In fact Tommy was on the FA Cup winners' bus in Ipswich with the first team and photographers were taking pictures thinking, ‘Who on earth’s this guy?’ and it was Sir Bobby’s best pal.
“There are three interwoven monologues. It’s very cleverly put together stringing the story out, so the references happen within the conversations that take place.
“I don’t want to spoil it, it’s difficult telling somebody the story without giving the plot away, but there are three different characters sharing their stories of how Bobby influenced them.”
The play follows in the wake of last summer’s hugely successful Our Blue Heaven at the New Wolsey which celebrated the 40th anniversary of Town’s 1978 FA Cup win.
“It’s going to be really, really different from the play that you saw last year but at the same time very inspirational,” Richmond, pictured below, continued.
“A good pal of mine, Pete Pev [Peter Peverley], played Bobby in it. I didn’t get a chance to see it but I was working with Pev on Friday morning and we were chatting about it and he said it was a great play.
“Across the backdrop of Bobby Robson Saved My Life is Italia 90, the World Cup, so it’s going to be fantastic. We’re bringing it to Ipswich on the 10th anniversary of Bobby passing, so it’s a really poignant day as well.”
He says the project has been a couple of years in fruition: “I came across the play last year, I was asked to do a rehearsed reading of it at the Theatre Royal Newcastle and apparently it had been on the back burner for a while.
“Gareth Hunter, the producer, had the idea and he approached a local playwright up here, Tom Kelly, to flesh out the idea and create the story.
“And so they did and they’ve been working on it for a year, two years now in the background.
“Last year it got its first rehearsed reading and then off the back of that we managed to land a theatre and some backing and off we went.”
While the play has been written and developed in the Sir Bobby’s home region of the North-East, Richmond, whose face may be familiar from appearances in TV shows such as Inspector George Gently and Vera, says there are plenty of Ipswich references.
“There are quite a few,” he reflected. “Believe it or not, for a North-East-based theatre company using three North-East actors, it does reference Ipswich quite a bit, and rightly so. It was a massive part of Sir Bobby’s life and so there are a lot of references within the play.”
Richmond, who crossed paths with Robson during his time in charge at St James’ Park, says he’s been taken aback by the reaction to news of the play in Suffolk.
“I met Bobby at a Newcastle United Christmas party many, many, many years ago,” he recalled. “He and Lady Elsie brought the first team to a staff Christmas party at St James’ Park and he just danced his socks off all night and was an absolute gent.
“That’s my memory. There are lots of happy memories up here. In footballing circles he’s highly renowned and treasured but what I’ve seen in Ipswich has blown me away in the past three weeks. He’s idolised down there and it’s amazing, and rightly so.”
Part of the proceeds from the play will go to the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation, which was launched in 2008 as Robson battled cancer for the fifth time.
“A proportion of each ticket sold is going to go to the Foundation to help continue the fight to find a cure for cancer,” Richmond said.
“The Foundation has been fully behind us, fully supportive. Lady Elsie’s been involved with the writer, regaling him with stories.
“We’ve had several other people, sporting personalities that we haven’t announced yet, but Alan Shearer’s behind it, [Robson’s Newcastle assistant] John Carver, some guys up this end. And we’ve met up with Terry Butcher and some of the guys from Ipswich.
“We’ve been overwhelmed by the support that we’ve received so far from Ipswich, we’re really pleased with it.”
He added: “We’re also doing the #3WordsforBobby campaign, which is just a way of getting some social media impact on it.
“We’re looking for more Ipswich Town fans and more Newcastle United fans to give us their three words for Sir Bobby because the little video messages they post on social media and tag us in, we retweet them and they form part of the play. I’m not going to say what they do, but they form part of the play. We’re active on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook on a daily basis.”
There are already tentative longer-term plans to take the play to Robson’s other clubs elsewhere in Europe, PSV, Barcelona, Sporting Lisbon and Porto.
“It’s shown that he had a massive impact, globally,” Richmond continued. “This time round what we’ve decided to do was start it in the North-East at the Customs House Theatre, bring it to Ipswich on his anniversary and then we’re going to close the little mini-tour back in the North-East.
“And then our big goal, if it really goes well and the impact’s there and the brand’s there, we want to take it out next year and we’d like to take it to all the clubs he managed and maybe use native speaking actors so that people have a choice to hear it in either English or in their native tongue.
“There’s ambition with the project to take it out further. That will probably happen next year, that’s the goal.”
Tickets are available from the Regent box office here.
Photos: Action Images/Contributed
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