Football, racism and war on stage

This video from Britain is called BBC4 doc Walter Tull Forgotten Hero first 15 minutes.

By Paul Foley in Britain:


Octagon Theatre, Bolton

Monday 11 March 2013

A moving new play recounts the story of one of Britain’s first black football players whose pioneering life was blighted by racism

Walter Tull was only the second black professional footballer to play in the football league when he made his debut for Tottenham Hotspur in 1909.

Subjected to unprecedented racism both on and off the field, he was shamefully dropped by a Spurs management unwilling to support their gifted player.

Snaffled up by the shrewd Herbert Chapman, Tull went on to play 110 games for Northampton Town.

On hearing the cynical call to defend the empire from one of Kitchener‘s recruiting sergeants, Tull immediately enlisted in the 1st Football Battalion.

Yet despite incredible bravery, racism dogged Tull’s military career. He died in France in 1918 but even in death his colour debarred him from receiving the Military Cross.

Phil Vasili’s moving play follows the extraordinary life of Tull from childhood in an orphanage to his cruel death on the battlefield of the Somme.

Vasili mixes fact and fiction by speculating on a relationship between Tull and his landlady Annie Williams, a radical suffragette and anti-war activist.

There is no evidence to support that this actually took place but it is an interesting device to explore discrimination and class politics in the turbulent years of the early 20th century.

Ciaran Bagnall’s clever set design transforms the stage into an arena, creating both a theatre of war and a theatre of dreams and, in eschewing costume and props, director David Thacker gives a nod to 1970s agitprop theatre.

Like Tull, actor Nathan Ives-Moiba turns in an exceptional professional debut as the troubled young footballer and there is a sympathetic portrayal of the great Herbert Chapman by John Branwell.

In a moving closing speech, he expresses the belief that Tull will pave the way to a better life for future generations of black footballers.

Today they may have more money and glamour, but we only need to reflect on the likes of Mario Balotelli, Patrice Evra, Anton Ferdinand or Kevin-Prince Boateng to see that it may be 100 years since Walter Tull graced the world of professional football but racism remains just as poisonous.

Runs until March 16. Box office: 01204-520661.

Award Walter Tull his posthumous Military Cross, petition here.

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