The Damned United comes to Plymouth

The stage adaptation of The Damned United is touring to Theatre Royal Plymouth on Tuesday 8 – Saturday 12 May. Award-winning playwright Anders Lustgarten (LAMPEDUSA/THE SEVEN ACTS OF MERCY) has adapted David Peace’s novel for Red Ladder Theatre Company which brings the play to Theatre Royal Plymouth as part of its first UK tour.

Combining fiction, fact and hearsay, David Peace’s compelling 2006 best-seller is an account of Brian Clough‘s disastrous 44-day period as manager of Leeds United. In a stripped-back staging directed by Red Ladder’s artistic director Rod Dixon, a company of three -  Luke Dickson (Brian Clough), David Chafer (Peter Taylor) and Jamie Smelt (Sam Longson/Syd Owen/Jack Kirkland et al) - take 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 story of a troubled genius slamming-up against his limits, The Damned United brings to life 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 – in 2014, as a show of support for the Leeds-based radical theatre company when it received a 100% cut to Arts Council Funding. Red Ladder presented the world premiere of The Damned United as a co-production with West Yorkshire Playhouse in 2016, which played to full capacity houses during a five-week sell-out run. For its first tour, The Damned United has been freshly re-approached as a small-scale production to take into non-traditional arts spaces, including football grounds, in addition to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and theatres for 2017-2018.

Rod Dixon, artistic director of Red Ladder, says “We’re thrilled to be bringing our production of The Damned United to Theatre Royal Plymouth. As a story it has it all – passion, power struggles, tragedy and a classic anti-hero in Clough - which lends itself brilliantly to a theatre adaptation. Anders captures the grit, poetry and darkness of David Peace’s ingenious novel, and by charting the fall of Brian Clough and exposing what made ‘Old Big ‘ed’ tick, the play gives a fascinating insight into the troubled but brilliant mind of a flawed genius – one of the most controversial figures in sporting history.”

Playwright Anders Lustgarten says “The Damned United is a brilliantly theatrical book, full of looming shadows, incantatory prose and dramatic conflicts and betrayals. The trick with adapting such fantastic source material is to let it breathe and do its thing, rather than reshape it. I think we’ve done that very successfully, and had a great time in the bargain.”

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.”
Tickets are priced at £15 and can be booked online at or by calling the Theatre Royal Plymouth Box Office on 01752 267222.