‘We share the same ethos as FC United’: Fan owned club’s inception to be dramatised by Manchester theatre group

Cristiano Ronaldo may have mastered the art of play-acting on the field, but that’s where the similarities between football and theatre usually stop.

Now, a Manchester drama group are trying to forge new links between the two worlds with Conceived in a Curry House – a play about the formation and development of FC United of Manchester.

Combining a cast of football fans and amateur thespians, MaD Theatre Company are aiming to encourage people who wouldn’t traditionally go to the theatre to come along and get involved.

“We’re trying to establish a link between football supporters and art,” MaD’s artistic director Rob Lees told MM.

“Many of the people involved have previously been involved in the arts but have never been to a football match. Or vice-versa, so they’re football fans but have never been to the theatre.”

This is not the first time MaD and FC United have joined forces since the supporter-owned club was founded by disillusioned Manchester United supporters following the Glazer takeover in 2005.

They first joined forces to produce She’s Just Nipped out for Fags in 2007 – a play about a husband who enlists the help of his drag queen neighbour to look after the kids while he follows United around Europe.

Two years later, Angels with Manky Faces told the story of the vicious Victorian Scuttler gangs of Manchester and Salford against a modern Manchester soundtrack.

“We very much share the same ethos as FC United,” said Rob.

“They stand for affordable, community football and we stand for affordable, community theatre and drama.

“We’re based in Moston and now that FC United are here too, it makes perfect sense.”

After a nomadic first decade of existence, FC United moved into their new home at Broadhurst Park in summer 2015 with a pledge to play an active role in the local community.

And to celebrate the club’s ten year anniversary, supporters approached MaD with the idea of Conceived in a Curry House.

The play revolves around Marilyn, a luckless single whose latest date has stood her up in a Rusholme curry house.

At the next table, she overhears the infamous meeting of a group of Manchester United supporters who are plotting to form a new football club, and is whisked along for the ride.

Following FC United over the next ten years, Marilyn experiences all the highs and lows of fan owned football – and there have certainly been lows over the past 12 months.

Ahead of a glamour-friendly against Portuguese giants Benfica to mark the opening of Broadhurst Park, the club’s board voted to increase the price of the match day programme by 50p, a move which was condemned by supporters as ‘outright commercialism’ and opened a Pandora’s Box of problems which persist to this day.

“We’re obviously aware of the current problems at FC United and we do mention the fact that the fans have been arguing over the programme price and things like that,” Rob admitted.

 “But we’re dealing with it all very much at arm’s length, as bewildered outsiders who are just a bit baffled at what’s going on. We’re not taking sides.”

Funded by Forever Manchester, Conceived in a Curry House will premier at Manchester Communications Academy in Harpurhey on July 4 at 7pm. Six more July dates will follow at Simpson Memorial Hall in Moston, before the finale at the Lowry Theatre on August 11.

“We wanted to put it on locally with a very local, community spirit,” he said.

“But also at the Lowry – a prestigious location with such a prestigious name.

“We want the people who have been involved with the play to have a chance to showcase their talents on a professional stage.”

The producers have enlisted the support of local pupils who have been to watch FC and learn all the chants which will be sung during the performance, so it promises to be a raucous few nights.

“We’ve got about a dozen local school kids all under 16 who have been involved. We want to create a real terrace atmosphere in the theatre, so we have lots of FC chants in the play.

“The main point of it all is to get local people watching FC United and getting involved in theatre at the same time.”

Let’s hope the best acting takes place on the stage and not in the penalty area. 

Image courtesy of MaD Theatre Company, via Vimeo, with thanks

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