Gordon Greenidge – hard hitting West Indies batsman and Alfred Sutton schoolboy is honoured in an incredible performance in the cricket pavilion at Reading School for 3 nights this week. The two actors playing the young and older reminiscing cricketer set this unusual theatre in the round on dramatic fire with their dazzling energy and intimacy.
The players were so close at times you could hear their breathing – especially when there were outbreaks of pavilion cricket. The audience was split into two, alternating between the younger and older man, cleverly looking ahead and back with nostalgia and insight into the man, his sport and the challenges of the times.
The audience were guided to the grand old school cricket pavilion by a flight path of solar lights and welcomed with music and a lovely rum punch by members of the Barbados and friends association. There was a short film and a coin toss to get everyone in the mood and give context.
The young Greenidge and coach Jordi, played with genuine verve by Chris Udoh bounced around the changing room and was utterly believable. With a lovely bajan accent he told the story of how he had come to a cold and lonely Reading in the 60s to join his parents, how he faced racism and bullying at Alfred Sutton school and began labouring at Suttons Seeds. He was offered a contract at Hampshire and after a couple of mediocre seasons he started training seriously until he was picked to open the batting and immediately earned the respect of the great South African batsman Barry Richards. It was not an easy ride though, as at various times he faced losses of form and confidence especially on his debut tour and also the loneliness felt by a lot of dedicated sportsmen.
The older Greenidge and Colin played by Christopher Tajah concentrated on the memories and the socio-political story behind the Greenidge story including his incredible 214 not out against England in ’84. There is a moving and funny scene with the board game of test match cricket which poignantly expressed the pride felt by West Indians in their team’s 30 odd years at the top of their game and their defiance in the face of prejudice.
You do not have to be a cricket fan to enjoy this play. The play ended on the porch of the pavilion with a beer and coming together of the two actors like the end of a great innings. The writer and director Benedict Sandiford nailed this story and dialogue with great understanding, fun and flourish. The actors were simply tremendous.
Being Gordon Greenidge is already sold out for the Friday night and Saturday matinee performances. At the time of writing, tickets were still available for the Saturday 14 October evening performance at 7.30pm.
Tickets are £15, or £13 for South Street members, and can be booked via the Reading Arts website or by phoning the box office 0118 960 6060.
The production is a Sitelines commission presented by South Street and the University of Reading, sponsored by Barbados and Friends Association (Reading), University of Reading, Reading School and Arts Council England. It is part of the Reading’s 2017 Black History Month programme.
Matthew Farrall, the author of this article, died on 20 April 2018.
We are grateful to his family for allowing us to continue to display his work online.