A new play based on the life of former West Bromwich Albion and Real Madrid footballer Laurie Cunningham is coming to Salford Arts Theatre next month.
‘Getting The Third Degree’ was commissioned by anti-discrimination in football group Kick It Out and tells the story of how he, and fellow black teammates Brendan Batson and Cyrille Regis (nicknamed the ‘Three Degrees’), triumphed over racial abuse and physical threats during the 1970s through football.
Cunningham, who died in a road accident while playing for Rayo Vallecano in 1989, was the first British player to feature for Real Madrid and only the second black player to win a full cap for England.
“We started actually thinking that we would write about the Three Degrees,” said playwright Dougie Blaxland.
“But we chose to write about Laurie because Laurie’s story is a bit like Greek tragedy really, there’s this young man who rose meteorically to stardom and then his star was put out all too soon.
“This year’s the 25th anniversary of Kick It Out, it’s the 30th anniversary of Laurie Cunningham’s passing and it’s the 40th anniversary of his debut for Real Madrid. So we thought, this is it.”
The play also incorporates 1970s funk, soul, and blues music alongside social and political speeches from that period.
“He (Cunningham) is at the heart of this play, but we also look at the context in which he had to live,” Blaxland added.
Following its commission from Kick It Out as part of the group’s 25th anniversary, the show will embark on a four-week UK tour with two nights at the Salford Arts Theatre on November 7 and 8.
Getting The Third Degree …@RoughHouseUK This play explores how laurie Cunningham and his fellow black players – Brendon Batson and Cyrille Regis – triumphed over the racial abuse and physical threats..7th & 8th November show your solidarity #kickoutracism #RT support the play pic.twitter.com/1EgSQh2Hpd
— Salford Arts Theatre (@SalfordArts) October 15, 2019
Roni Ellis, joint artistic director at Salford Arts Theatre, said: “I thought it was the right time to bring something like this and with what had previously happened in the match with Bulgaria (on October 14.).
“I think it’s really important to kind of educate a new generation of people.
“People have opinions and don’t realise what people go through and you’ve got to have respect for people with regards to the fact that they did rise above it.”
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