Review: Broken Time ***

At Theatre Royal Wakefield

STAGING plays about sport are not usually the easiest tasks to undertake.

It is always difficult to create realistic scenes surrounding the on-field action and it can all become rather cluttered.

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Fortunately, while based around how rugby league was born in the build up to that historic meeting at The George Hotel in 1895, Mick Martin’s Broken Time does not centre on the playing side.

Instead, it is a story of the impact rugby had on the fictionalised small town West Broughton and its club during the period of 1893-94; the battle between the sport’s amateur roots and public school bias against a growing clamour for professionalism from the superior northern teams with industrial barons at the helm of rugby’s working-class heroes.

Central to it all is Lewy Jenkins, the Welsh superstar lured north by a lucrative offer, and who, played by the brawny Gareth Richards, certainly has the physical on-stage presence of a rugby giant fresh from the pit.

It is sprinkled with humour, not least when, in organising a gala match to raise funds for the striking mill workers, it is suggested they provide dancers and singers at half-time along with made-up mascots to make it a family day-out. A clear nod to the present era of Super League, Lewy’s adamant response is “They’ll never have that up ‘ere.”

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While not as polished or witty as rugby league’s only other major play – John Godber’s Up and Under – Broken Time will certainly interest fans, particularly those interested in the history of the game.

Director Conrad Nelson makes good use of his cast’s skills – they all play brass instruments to bring an added dimension – while there is some clever choreography for the few action sequences.

Theatre Royal, Wakefield until tomorrow; Harrogate Theatre September 28-October 1; Lawrence Batley Theatre, Huddersfield October 19-22.

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