Best in the World

The Northern Stage at St Stephen’s is a rather wonderful room, and the Unfolding Theatre Company’s Best in the World – directed by Annie Rigby, written by Carina Rodney and performed by Alex Elliott – has whipped up a fantastic set in it, complete with dart board and TV screen playing inspirational quotes from the heroes of the darts world through the decades as the audience enters.

The hour-long performance is a cross between an essay on exceptional sportspeople and a motivational lecture, and the calm, engaging, slightly off-kilter presence of Elliott is the perfect guide through a rather unique and totally unpredictable show.

The first few minutes are absolute basics: this is a dart, this is how a game of darts is scored, this is Alex Elliott, here is his moody black and white 8x10 promotional headshot. Through the following sixty minutes the show’s ideas accumulate and converse into a little network of interesting perspectives on sport, art and our own emotional choices. The audience is regularly invited to participate, and some of the things people were happy to share with a group of complete strangers were genuinely moving.

If this all sounds rather mawkish, you may have a point. The show is tirelessly positive, encouraging us at to shake off our self-doubts and visualise success the way Olympians Jonathan Edwards and Tammy Grey-Thompson did. And yet it made a convincing argument, largely through the effective construction of the show’s central symbol: darts. Darts, argues Elliott, is a great leveller. You don’t have to be rich or fit; like many of the things we try to achieve in life, all it requires is an unusual amount time, dedication and concentration.

That the show didn’t collapse under the weight of its own feelgood importance is testament to the quality of the script, which knows exactly how long to spend on each topic and how seriously to take it, and Elliott’s performance, which is sincere, authoritative, and ultimately very winning.St Stephen’s is a long old walk from most of the big venues, and 12.45pm is an odd time to get the necessary boost of self-confidence to make it, but it’s certainly worth the effort. Keep an open mind and this is a show that might genuinely change how you think.

Since you’re here…

… we have a small favour to ask. We don't want your money to support a hack's bar bill at Abattoir, but if you have a pound or two spare, we really encourage you to support a good cause. If this review has either helped you discover a gem or avoid a turkey, consider doing some good that will really make a difference.

You can donate to the charity of your choice, but if you're looking for inspiration, there are three charities we really like.

Mama Biashara
Kate Copstick’s charity, Mama Biashara, works with the poorest and most marginalised people in Kenya. They give grants to set up small, sustainable businesses that bring financial independence and security. That five quid you spend on a large glass of House White? They can save someone’s life with that. And the money for a pair of Air Jordans? Will take four women and their fifteen children away from a man who is raping them and into a new life with a moneymaking business for Mum and happiness for the kids.
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The Make A Difference Trust fights HIV & AIDS one stage at a time. Their UK and International grant-making strategy is based on five criteria that raise awareness, educate, and provide care and support for the most vulnerable in society. A host of fundraising events, including Bucket Collections, Late Night Cabarets, West End Eurovision, West End Bares and A West End Christmas continue to raise funds for projects both in the UK and Sub-Saharan Africa.
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Acting For Others
Acting for Others provides financial and emotional support to all theatre workers in times of need through the 14 member charities. During the COVID-19 crisis Acting for Others have raised over £600,000 to support theatre workers affected by the pandemic.
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The Blurb

One man, three darts, no second chances. Join our quest discovering what being best really means. Featuring champions’ insights, live darts and emergency bananas. Are you the best audience in the world? ‘Thrillingly talented people’ (Guardian).

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