At 4pm every Saturday, from 1976 to 1988, tens of millions of Britons and countless more world-wide were in the grip of an extraordinary sports phenomenon: watching two fat men - Shirley Crabtree and Martin Ruane aka Big Daddy and Giant Haystacks - pretend to fight (wrestle) each other.
This play goes beyond the ring ropes to try understand what these two men were actually like, it is a testament to the skill of Ross Gurney-Randall (Big Daddy) and David Mounfield (Giant Haystacks) they can so slickly pull off a faithful account of the rise and fall of wrestling on TV at the same time as making fun of it.
The show successfully conjures up a time long since passed when grannies would sit in the front row of arenas and beat the baddies over the head with their umbrellas or cheer on the goodies with equal abandonment. However as good as the actors are there are some clunky moments in the script which take away the overall evenness of the show.
The highlight comes when Big Daddy describes what brought the career of a truly national celebrity to a close. The subject matter will resonate with anyone who remembers those heady days in the world of sport and the original TV broadcasts of professional wrestling, in a world that’s so used to the spectacle of WWE and the wonderment that two obviously obese men could pull such crowds to massive arenas is a marvel.
The direction of the show is pretty good and it’s paced well. There does feel as though there are lulls every now and again that are particularly noticeable but the sheer passion that both actors put into the show ensures that the attention is maintained.
With a soundtrack of hits from the 70’s and 80’s the show really works hard to create a authentic feel and the realisation that both combatants only ever met in the ring once and that the bout lasted less that ten minutes really sums the story up.
The show leaves you with a greater understanding of two wrestling stars now long gone, who spent their final years sitting in the ever dimming glow of a once bright light.