Manchester United fans old enough to remember 1971 may recall the strange weekend George Best went missing. Three quarters of the Metropolitan Police were ordered to stand guard at Sinead Cusack’s flat in Islington as word spread like wildfire that Best was hiding there, overcome with the pressures of fame and skiving a match against Chelsea. In Hello Georgie, Goodbye Best, Cheese at Fourpence speculate on the conversation that may have happened inside between the footballer and the actress. Erratic and emotionally charged, this two-hander offers perceptive comment on the cult of celebrity that feels just as relevant to today’s headlines.
An intimate and compelling scenario for events of ‘that weekend’ in 1971
Famous footballer Robbie Martin's expression frequently clouds over with a troubled air. Knowing how Best’s life would end, this is poignant to witness. Martin’s performance stresses a painful truth - that Best is not personally suited for the spotlight. In Hello Georgie, Goodbye Best, he is shy and awkward, leaving him volatile in the face of public attention. Rafaela Ellison as Cusack shows never-ending loyalty to Best. A balance of confusion and concern is present throughout her performance. Ellison’s speech sometimes feels slow and laboured, particularly in her opening conversation with Martin, meaning that dialogue with the potential for impact instead becomes rather dragged out.
Alongside the performers’ panicked reactions, the production launches into a sense of frenzy as hoardes of journalists rush to the flat, followed by football fans desperate for a glimpse of ‘Georgie.’ A screen featuring authentic news footage of the event effectively conveys the media spectacle that plagues Best’s life. However, other aspects of staging could be improved. Although Cusack’s living space is created with excellent attention to the period, at times a table in the middle of the stage feels like a barrier between the actors and the audience. This is particularly frustrating during the play’s most intense moments, when it feels the action is trapped in a corner.
Hello Georgie, Goodbye Best offers an intimate and compelling scenario for events of ‘that weekend’ in 1971. Best is widely considered as the first person to have suffered such high-level media scrutiny in his life. This production ensures that theatre-goers too young to remember Best will still find parallels with the pressure that greets today’s stars. Football takes a backseat as more universal themes are unpacked.