Anthony Clavane’s play about legendary rugby league commentator Eddie Waring, Playing The Joker is to open The Big Bookend festival with two very special performances at the Queens Hotel, Leeds (Waring’s unofficial headquarters) on Sunday 11 May.
Written by award-winning author and Sunday Mirror sports journalist Anthony Clavane, Playing The Joker was originally directed by James Blakey at the West Yorkshire Playhouse. The show has now been remounted by Red Ladder’s Rod Dixon and is an emotive look into rugby league’s revered and despised spokesman Eddie Waring.
Both performances will be followed by Q&A sessions with author Anthony Clavane, actors Paul Fox and Dicken Ashworth and some VIP guests including Leeds United legend Eddie Gray, close friend of Eddie Waring Ronnie Teeman, local rugby league writer Phil Caplan and rugby league writer, Professor Tony Collins, author of two seminal books on rugby league.
Set in December 1977, nine years since the infamous ‘Watersplash Final’ and the once “Good Old Uncle Eddie” has withdrawn into the protective walls of the Queens Hotel, as a petition grows to have him thrown off the BBC. Idealistic rugby league fan Eddie Marlowe, grieving the recent loss of his father, has been eagerly waiting to be alone with his idol, but as the wait lengthens his patience grows thin. Will he get that chance?
The show examines rugby league through the eyes of its voice (Eddie Waring) and its fans (Eddie Marlowe). Through song, jokes and gripping drama, Eddie Marlowe voices the betrayal and doubt many fans felt towards Waring’s comedy Yorkshireman persona, strengthening the South’s view as a barbaric sport, and creating a rousing critical debate of this “beautiful game”.
Chief Executive of Leeds Rhinos, Gary Hetherington comments, “Playing The Joker is a moving, funny and passionate portrayal of rugby league. It is in part a tribute to Eddie Waring and a remembrance of some great rugby league moments in history. It is beautifully played by a terrific cast of professional actors with a great script which takes us back to those heady days”
Anthony Clavane says, “ It is a great honour for the play to be opening this wonderful festival. I have seen Big Bookend grow so much over the past three years. The themes of the play are very pertinent to a festival teeming with stimulating events debating identity, belonging and literary versions of Yorkshireness.”
Fiona Gell, Co-ordinator of the Leeds Big Bookend, says, “The Big Bookend is delighted to be working once again with Anthony Clavane and Red Ladder Theatre in presenting the excellent Playing The Joker. We can’t thank them enough for their continued support of the Big Bookend festival and their important contributions to the Leeds’ arts and cultural scene.
“The Big Bookend is all about celebrating Leeds’ rich literary heritage and its future talent. In the run up to this year’s festival, our writing competitions with Leeds school pupils will uncover the new talent, and our Leeds Story Cycle will bring together the communities around Leeds through interactive and creative writing.”
“With book launches, author Q&As, performances and discussions with Leeds writers throughout the weekend, the Big Bookend has a fantastic and diverse line-up of events for the city to get involved with. Our head line author is the legendary Alan Bennett who will be its pinnacle and the culmination of our festival.”
Playing The Joker opens the Big Bookend festival on Sunday 11th May 2014, 2pm at the Queen’s Hotel, Leeds with a further performance at 6pm. Details on our website. For booking information visit the West Yorkshire Playhouse or call the box office on 0113 213 7700.
Playing The Joker is to tour rugby clubs in Yorkshire and the North West, kicking off at Headingley Carnegie Stadium in Leeds on Saturday 3 May 2014. For more information about the tour, click here for Red Ladder Theatre.
You can read more about Playing the Joker in an article written by Anthony for the Big Bookend last year. Earlier this year, we interviewed him to find out about his life, work and future plans, Talking To Anthony Clavane.