Monday, August 8, 2011

George Best - The Killing of Georgie (Part I and II)

Following on from the utterly mortifying and hateful Celia Walden book on George Best comes the relaunch of an often-mawkish musical covering the legend's life from the Cregagh estate to Valhalla.

One of the writers once painted the Northern Ireland international football fanbase as snarling bigots in an earlier play where the main character is so nauseated by the alpha-male loyalist frenzy at Windsor Park that he decides to throw in his lot with the Republic of Ireland supporters and travels with them to the USA World Cup where no such political incorrectness ensues. After all they had a cantankerous oul Brit of a manager at that time themselves. The other writer recently set the history of the Maze Prison - up to and including the death of the IRA hunger strikers - to a Capital Gold soundtrack.

Dancing Shoes is redeemed by some decent acting - particularly from its female cast members - though the set design is amateurish and the "Moon in June" songwriting leaves much to be desired. Dialogue-wise it often lapses into weary parochialism and the humour is often set to a laboured and predictable pattern.

Best embodied the first and indeed ultimate fusion of pop celebrity and sporting genius in a period of British social history that is now often regarded with literal heartbreaking reverence. As a highly intelligent man in turn his comments on the political situation in Ulster and the cultural divisions in Ireland were always heartfelt, sincere and measured.

I personally feel that the scale of Best's individual talent within the history of the British Isles does not merit such an essentially premature, family-friendly and often cliched portrayal such as this - and that despite touching base with the realities of his alcohol addiction.

I may be wrong of course. Maybe George was indeed looking down from his celestial whereabouts and chuckling fondly at one of the final scenes in the Grand Opera House Belfast where he and Alex Higgins perform a pre-death song and dance in the City Hospital celebrating their rollercoaster lifepath from such humble working class origins.

But I would somehow err upon the strong possibility that - as the one European icon who definitively proved that effortless cool need not originate on American celluloid - he wouldn't have been.

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