By Far the Greatest Team, at The Lowry: Football for the stage

Kevin Bourke

Four stories about Manchester’s two great football teams combine for a play that’s like being on a pitch.

For millions of people around the world, Manchester is most recognisable for its two football teams, United and City – and within the city itself, there’s been fierce rivalry between the fans for many years. Now, the Manchester Theatre Award-winning Monkeywood Theatre production company are staging the world premiere of By Far The Greatest Team; four new Manchester stories by four outstanding Manchester writers exploring and celebrating what it means to be a football fan in Manchester.

The production will see The Lowry’s Quays theatre transformed into a football stadium, recreating the atmosphere of a match day in the city, as writers Sarah McDonald Hughes, Lindsay Williams, Ian Kershaw, and Andrew Sheridan tell four new stories about Manchester City, Manchester United, identity, community and belonging, trying to get to the heart of why the beautiful game has such an impact on people’s lives – season after season.

The Quays theatre will be transformed into a football stadium, recreating the atmosphere of match day

“We’re trying to look at what being a football fan means to people, to get past all the distractions that surround the game – especially these days – to the purity of what if feels like to be a fan,” Sarah McDonald Hughes tells us. “Outside of the stadium it can be difficult to remember what it feels like, but when you’re watching a match it really, really matters.”

Andrew Sheridan explains further: “when we each wrote the pieces, we did it quite separately and didn’t really know what the other writers were going to write. But what emerged when we read them was that, yes, they were all about football, but above that they were all about relationships and people and how that sits within that world of being a football fan. Without, hopefully, sounding too wanky, they’re about being human.”

Through the stories themselves, the structure of the evening reflects the ebb and flow of a match, complete with a half-time (otherwise known as the interval). But McDonald Hughes emphasises the importance of getting football fans and non-football fans “to come and sit together, experiencing the same thing in the same room, as you would at a match.”

There’s a bigger ambition behind this, too. “Behind all our work as Monkeywood, but specifically with this, is the thought that we want people who don’t think theatre is for them to come and see it,” she says. “Theatre needs to change, and to allow audiences to change.” And, well, a play about football might be just the way to do it.

Culture Guides

Cinema

Wes Anderson comedies, martial arts epics, and radical 70s cinema are just some of the highlights coming to a big screen near you this month.

Exhibitions

From seductively immersive environments to the enduring magic of maps, August does not disappoint with an abundance of exhibitions in Manchester and further afield.

Power UP at the Science and Industry Museum

Families

As summer in Manchester turns out to be a scorcher, here are our hottest picks of some of the best outdoor and indoor family-friendly events and activities happening in Manchester and the North during the summer holidays and the coming months, featuring festivals, performances, gaming fun, garden visits and so much more.

Author Adam Farrer. Photo by Simon Buckley

Literature

There are online readings and live launches as Manchester and the North welcomes some great writers – and we’re building up to book festival season, so let’s get planning…

Music

We head into August with a whole lot of musical goodness to look forward to, from massive indie gigs to inner city electronic festivals.

Theatre in Manchester and the North

Theatre

The new theatre season is nearly here. Liverpool Theatre Festival and the Women in Comedy Festival take top spots in this month’s guide.

Classical Music in Manchester and the North

We preview the standout classical music events and venues in Manchester and the north.

Food and Drink

Explore the best restaurants and bars in Manchester and the North this August.

Tours and Activities

Break out of the old summer routines and try something different with roller skating, kite flying and more in this month’s Tours and Activities guide.

Things to do right now

Powered by culturehosts
Activity Until 14 August 2022, from £2.00

Heaton Park Pump Track

The Gruffalo at The lowry
Families Until 21 August 2022, from £10.00

The Gruffalo at The Lowry

The Jungle Book at Williamson Park
Families Until 28 August 2022, from £15.00

The Jungle Book at Williamson Park

Open Air Theatre in Manchester and the North
Childrens Until 29 August 2022, from £28.00

Stig of the Dump at Grosvenor Open Air Theatre

Activity Until 30 August 2022, Quarry Bank admission prices apply (free for National Trust members) £1.50 for trail

The Lost Words at Quarry Bank

Festivals Until 31 August 2022, from £9.95

Flying Fighters of Taiwan at HOME

Great Northern Sandpit
Families Until 31 August 2022, FREE

The Great Northern Sandpit

Activity Until 31 August 2022, from £40

Northern Quarter Taster Walk with Manchester Food Walks