Chariot: The Eric Liddell Story

There was something very apt about this production. Perhaps it was that the show was being performed mere yards from the Eric Liddell Centre, or maybe it was that it came on the back of the British success at the London 2012 Olympic Games. Either way the audience were ready for what is one of the most inspiring sporting stories of all time, and this fitting, appealing tale is one of the strengths of the play.

The narrative focuses on Liddell’s now famous switch from the 100m to the 400m at the 1924 Paris Olympics because of his refusal to run on the Sabbath due to his Christian beliefs. The greater part of the play is set in Paris during the immediate build up to the race, with the occasional flashback and a prologue and epilogue from Tom McKerchar, Liddell’s trainer. The two of them together with Wallace Longfellow, a journalist eager for a scoop, make up the cast. The three actors all give solid performances, but David Robinson stands out with his depiction of the straight-talking Yorkshire coach, adding humour to the piece and counter balancing the more serious Liddel.

Despite the limited action in the play, it is engaging at all times thanks to the quality of the staging, the strong actors, and the improbable but true story. The show invites a number of associations with the much loved film Chariots of Fire, as it has some of the same text and a near-identical tweed suited costume in one scene. This resulted in more comparisons being drawn between the two and, unfortunately, there was no way the performance could live up to the stunning race scenes in the film. The fact that this is a theatre production that is limited to the confines of the space and without a vast budget at its disposal must obviously be kept in mind. However, perhaps because of the immense build up there was a sense of anticlimax at the staging and conclusion of the race. Thankfully this was only a minor point in the context of what was an extremely enjoyable show. A solid adaptation that can be enjoyed by fans of the film, of Eric Liddell, and anyone else who enjoys a great story.

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The Blurb

A new dramatisation brings to life, on stage, the inspiring life story of the great Olympic hero, Eric Liddell. Made famous by the award-winning film Chariots of Fire. Run for a ticket. A winner.

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