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The Prince – The Johnny Thomson Story

Kings Theatre, Glasgow
3 stars
Eighty years ago this Monday past, Celtic Football Club's twenty-two
year old goal-keeper Johnny Thomson died from injuries sustained while
saving a ball kicked by Rangers centre forward Sam English during an
Old Firm game at Ibrox. This new work co-produced by CFC aims not only
to homage one of the finest footballing talents of his generation, but
to appeal for some display of unity as Scotland's sectarian shame is at
last being challenged. Thomson, after all, was a Protestant.

Opening with a coffin sitting at the centre of an otherwise empty,
green-bathed stage, The Prince serves up a loose-knit biography of
Fife-born Thomson, from his heroic rise to the tragic nature of his
death. Our guides for this are a couple of likely lads called Billy and
Tim, who help punctuate each sketch-like scene with a series of
cabaret-style club anthem singalongs as a series of big-screen action
replays are beamed out. Some might call it padding.

The script, adapted by joint directors Jimmy Chisholm and Paul Morrow
from Brian McGeachan and Gerard McDade's original, is simplistic and
unavoidably sentimental.. Yet, however much it tugs the partisan
heart-strings, there's an emotional honesty and attention to detail at
play, both in the play's staging and in James MacKenzie's guileless
depiction of Johnny. Only the closing Oasis soundtrack remains witless.

From existential novelist and Algerian national player Albert Camus to
Austrian playwright Peter Handke's script for Wim Wenders' film, The
Goalkeeper's Fear of the Penalty, there's always been a romantic allure
about goalies. By focusing on a real life legend, however, The Prince
is just about saved.

The Herald, September 7th 2011



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