My recent aborted trip to try to see Keele University play football was also to take in the play ‘Marvellous’ at The New Vic Theatre in Newcastle-under-Lyme. The football reference will come later.
The New Vic theatre deserves a mention because if you are in the area it is well worth a visit to see not only their often locally produced plays but also the facilities it offers. We had opted for an Italian meal in Newcastle which in all respects turned out average and was further put to shame when having a drink in the bar we saw what the theatre had to offer which was a great menu at reasonable prices and seeing the food that was being served a better quality than we had eaten.
This was built in 1986 with a lot of local fund raising and replaced the Victoria Theatre which was a converted cinema. The theatre presents in the round which gives you great views and a closeness to the cast. It is a cultural Centre for the area and is a charity with a partnership between the Arts Council and Local Authorities.
The play is about the life of local lad Neil Baldwin who has a warm spot in most locals heart as well as many others.
The production used seven people to play Neil from being a twinkle in his parents eye until today and the play ended with the spotlight focusing on the real Neil Baldwin as he left the theatre. The play was written by Neil Baldwin and Malcolm Clarke another notable person from the area who could also have a play written about his life story.
We were first drawn to the Neil Baldwin Story when the film ‘Marvellous’ was shown on the BBC in 2015 with Toby Jones ( One of the UK’s all time greats) playing him. The film had us in tears as the human story was moving, funny, inspirational, uplifting and most of all showed the best in mankind.
Neil was born with learning difficulties but did not let that stop him from living an extraordinary life. He had a short career as a Clown in circuses and went on to unofficially act as a maître de to Keele University and as a Kit man for Stoke City Football club. He was appointed Kit man by Lou Macari who once said that ‘it was the best signing he ever made’. He dressed up in many outfits and was a great motivation in lifting team spirit in the dressing room. He was loved by the fans and players as emphasised by Neville Southall giving him the taxi fare to get home from a south coast game when he heard that his mother was ill. Neil also founded Neil Baldwin F.C. at Keele University.
Neil is also famous for turning up for chats and tea with Bishops, politicians and royalty who he soon made friends with.
If you have time make sure you watch the film but also look out for a New Vic production which was truly Marvellous.
It may well be put on again as Covid forced the last four days productions to be cancelled.