I’m sure I’m not the only Geordie who can remember hearing the news of Sir Bobby Robson’s death almost ten years ago on Friday 31st July 2009. I was gearing up to visit my Dad in Newcastle’s Freeman Hospital. Like Sir Bobby my Dad had cancer and he died 16 hours after I heard that Friday morning bulletin about Sir Bobby on Radio Newcastle.
Newcastle United fans had lost their hero but I felt like I’d lost two heroes in one day. Whenever I read an article or see a photo of Sir Bobby, I think of Dad.
Inevitably Pa was on my mind and in my heart yesterday lunchtime when I met my pal Pat at North Shields ferry. We crossed over the Tyne to South Shields and headed to The Customs House for the matinee performance of Bobby Robson Saved My Life by Tom Kelly.
After a catchup over lunch Pat and I had time to stretch our legs outside the riverside theatre before the performance. I spied Tom Kelly and wandered over to chat. I told him about Dad dying so soon after Sir Bobby and how much I was looking forward to the play.
Pat and I took our seats, chatted again to Tom as he looked for his and then settled down to watch the play. I knew I’d cry but wasn’t explecting to weep in the first 30 seconds of the play. I got used to mopping my eyes throughout the performance.
The play revolves around three characters: Tommy, Clair and Mark. The fourth character is Sir Bobby who is referred to throughout the play. The three narratives are woven together to produce a heart-felt appreciation of Sir Bobby’s life and legacy.
Tom’s strong script is realised by director Jamie Brown and the production team. Jamie just happens to be an award-winning actor (Hadaway Harry, The Man and the Donkey) and his all-rounder skills enhance Bobby Robson Saved My Life.
As soon as I saw Sam Neale’s named in the programme as single mum Clair I knew we were in for a performance treat. I first saw Sam in Alison Carr’s Iris at Live Theatre in 2016. Sam writes short plays which have been produced professionally and this makes her another all-rounder like Director Jamie. So much talent off and on stage!
Actors Charlie Richmond (Mark) and Donald McBride playing Tommy brought differing experiences and styles to their roles and worked perfectly alongside Sam Neale. All three took us on a journey from Langley Park to St James’ Park via Fulham, Vancouver, Ipswich, Portugal, Spain and Italia 1990.
My only criticism of the performance is the short video clips at the beginning and end of the play. Some of them are dark and it was difficult to make out some of the faces on the screen.
I ran out of tissues by the end of the play and wandered back to the Shields ferry with Pat discussing the merits of “a good cry” every once in a while.
Bobby Robson Saved My Life run until Saturday at The Customs House. It plays at Ipswich Regent on 31st July and returns to the north for a short run at the Tyne Theatre and Opera House 2nd to the 4th August. A portion of ticket money goes to The Sir Bobby Robson Foundation.