Ipswich Regent Theatre to host 'emotional' performance of Bobby Robson Saved My Life play on the 10th anniversary of Ipswich Town and Newcastle United manager's death
‘Ipswich. Newcastle. Inspirational.’
After some thought on the challenge I had been set following a breakfast meeting with Quayside Productions’ company director Charlie Richmond and executive producer Steve Barber, those were my #3WordsforBobby to sum up the great man.
I followed in the footsteps of Alan Shearer, Jimmy Nail and Sting, among many others, to try and describe him in just a trio of words (Jon Carver, his former assistant at Newcastle, has had playful digs thrown at him for failing miserably with eight).
It is part of the social media campaign to promote a new play about the great man – Bobby Robson Saved My Life – which is coming down on a triangular tour from Newcastle to Ipswich’s Regent Theatre for a one-off show next month on July 31.
A proportion of every ticket raised will go towards the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation for cancer research, treatment and trials. And the Suffolk performance date is highly significant.
“We actually play the Regent on the 10th anniversary that Sir Bobby passed away, so there is paying tribute and marking that anniversary, but the play is about the highs and lows that normal people go through every day, so it’s not all about football,” explained Richmond, who is not only the production company’s director but also one of the lead actors, playing an ex-Ipswich Town academy footballer from the North East who Robson has a big impact on.
“What Tom Kelly the writer has cleverly done is take three separate stories, set across the back-drop of Italia ‘90 (World Cup) and he has woven them together.
“It is really a series of monologues and it is all about how Sir Bobby’s legacy in some way affected these guys. I don’t want to give any spoilers away but it will be an emotional rollercoaster, especially down here.”
Some of Sir Bobby’s Ipswich players who put the club on the world map with their FA Cup win in 1978 and UEFA Cup triumph in 1981 will return to the county to watch it, while his beloved wife, Lady Elsie, is also hoping to make it down with family members.
With the play being originally only set to be performed at The Customs House Theatre in South Shields, Suffolk appears to have got lucky with the staging the big anniversary show. But it could not be in a better place, I’m told.
“His name is even bigger down here,” said executive producer Barber.
“We always wanted to bring it down to Ipswich for the anniversary.
“He is absolutely loved and adored in the North East but he made such a difference here.
“Off the back of speaking to Phil and Robbie about the Bike For Bobby they said you think he is loved in Newcastle? You have no idea about the passion in Ipswich.”
Of course, his statue stands proudly in Portman Road, at the club he famously referred to as ‘my baby’.
Richmond said: “What Gina has done down here is open up Ipswich and Suffolk.
“I can’t even put into words how impressed I am with the people of Ipswich and Suffolk.
“We have come down here, we have mentioned Bobby’s name and the project and people are now starting to approach us. That hasn’t happened in the North East.”
The woman he refers to is charity fund-raiser Gina Long MBE, based at Fornham near Bury St Edmunds, who began her crusade to make people’s lives better through a global online auction in 2010 after losing Robson, who was a close family friend.
“Bobby will always be remembered for the great man he was,” she said. “There will never be another Sir Bobby Robson. To say he was a legend of his time would be somewhat of an understatement, everyone loved Bobby.”
She hopes her part this week in hosting three of the team behind bringing the play, which will first be performed in South Shields on July 16 and finish up at the Tyne Theatre & Opera House on August 4, including former player Terry Butcher, will help it be the big success she feels it deserves to be.
Knowing how Sir Bobby is revered around the county, I point out their only problem may be a big over-subscription on the county’s only night.
But that has already been thought of, with talks having already started about bringing it back next year to the Theatre Royal in Bury St Edmunds, as part of a European Tour of Sir Bobby’s clubs.
Let the emotional rollercoaster begin.
* To enquire about tickets to the Ipswich Regent Theatre show on July 31, 2019 call the Box Office on 01473 433 100.