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A Mighty Fall from Grace - How much does your club mean to you?

Review written by Ellie Cansdale

Performing as part of a Working Class Programme of theatre produced by Bloomin’ Buds Theatre company, Jake Thompson tells us the story of a Bradford Bulls fan and his mental health, matching that of his own clubs.

We enter the space to an empty stage, and wonder where our leading man is until the raucous sound of “Rockin’ All Over the World” starts to play, and our journey begins. The following 45 minutes tells the story of Andy, a superfan of the Bradford Bulls; his and Thompson’s local team.

Right from the start we can see the passion Thompson has for the Bulls and this story. Rugby match commentary weaves its way through the sound of the opening number and we hear the Bulls at the top of their game. Jake barrels onto the stage wearing his very own Bradford Bulls shirt, and begins reacting in slow motion to the words we all hear. His love for the game and intense reaction to each up and down sets the energy for the rest of his performance.

At the top of the play, we learn about his relationship with his girlfriend who “doesn’t come to rugby do’s” much but he’s managed to get her out for when the game that crowns the Bulls Champions. All is going well for them both, as Andy tells us all about his love for the sport.

But in the space of a quick scene change, to the tune of “We Run with the Bulls,” we are transported to a few years later where we see the start of the downfall of both. Through subtle lighting changes from a warm wash to an increasingly intense red, and adjustments to Thompson’s physicality we feel the superfan starting to lose his patience with his team and the idea that someone is “matching [his] successes with the bulls” infiltrating his mind. The pace of this play is expertly crafted through Thompson’s writing and direction. As the Bulls start to fail at every match, and as he gets sacked from his job, loses his girlfriend and gets kicked out of his parent’s house, this theory becomes his entire reality.

Dotted through the play, we see moments of deliriousness where Andy is clearly beginning to lose the plot. These moments are beautifully executed through his physicality, subtle lighting changes, and act as time markers for the audience. Andy’s theory of his life being linked to the Bulls, becomes more and more real to him, as he spends hours in his bedroom yelling at what he thinks is the T.V. talking about the team, but is in fact a news channel he has made up to process their decline, hilariously named “The Bradford Bulls Shitshow”.

Thompson uses purposeful and expert mime to convey each scene he is telling, using minimal props and costume throughout the piece to highlight key elements of the story. A notable use of this is at the height of Andy’s craziness. In a moment of madness, we see him carry out his plan of revenge against the latest chairman of the team. The duffle bag which holds all of his props, sits on his shoulders as he begins to tell us what he plans to do. Taking out three cans of spray paint, he mimes spraying the Bulls colours onto the side of a “flashy white merc, with a personalised reg”. The addition of the real cans helped emphasise his state of mind, a key element to this story.

Andy’s decline into his mind and this theory, comes to a full head when he’s arrested for his revenge mission, and is detained in a psychiatric ward. To highlight this moment, Thompson wears a hospital gown and sits on a chair (the only set piece in the play) telling us about his recent stint in the ward. The play ends with a touching confession to a relapse, a summary of where the Bulls are now placed in the league and how Andy has made it back home.

A Mighty Fall From Grace is a brilliant one man show told through well-written monologues that flits between talking just to himself and to us as the audience. The use of lighting changes and songs that reflect the tone of each scene work as simple but effective scene transitions.

If you’re a fan of rugby and/or the theatre, this play is for you! Well done Jake and the team for your successful run at the Fringe, gaining 4 and 5 star reviews.

Come see the show at the Rockwell Centre in Bradford on 6th October 2022.

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