When cricketer Sid Taylor retires from the game aged 42, the reality of life on the outside hits him for six. A request from Sid’s old grammar school to deliver the Prize Day speech provides him with a very public outlet for 20 years of bitterness and bile. Will he go out in a blaze of glory or will he knuckle down and play the game…?
Jack Rosenthal’s Big Sid was not initially an attractive proposition for me. I’m not a big fan of cricket and with the main focus of this drama being the fall of a popular cricketer I was nervous that this might cramp my enjoyment.
As it turns out, I needn’t have worried as Big Sid is an affecting portrait of failure – the cricket background is incidental. Instead, what we get is an examination of what exactly makes a man tick laced with Rosenthal’s trademark mixture of arch humour and tragic drama.
Sid Taylor (Colin Connor) scowls and charms his way through the performance with an instantly likeable air despite the pressure he exerts on his long suffering wife, Sheila (Emma Laidlaw). Connor has created a fractured, bitter and importantly complex picture of a man who once had everything in his grasp. Staring off into the audience, the weight of expectation falling onto him as the reality of life off the field comes crashing down is tangible.
Sid expects that life is done to him under the 11th Commandment – or as he would have it: “Thou shall be cheated on”. However, in typical Rosenthal nature, things just aren’t quite that straightforward as we see in an electric scene where Laidlaw and Connor really unleash themselves at each other as the Taylor’s marriage is tested.
It might sound clichéd, but Rosenthal’s writing even allows what might have been otherwise incidental characters to shine through. Lisa Connor’s school secretary gets a lovely moment where she considers the nature of the ’boys’ passing through the school.
Elsewhere, Will Hutchby’s rendition of ‘old’ boy Hal Crowther brings the house down into hysterics thanks to his comic timing and is in sharp contrast to his other role as the hard-lined Councillor Hartley. But it is Gary Hanks’ Selby that completely steals the show. Whether it is his ineptitude in interviewing Sid or his unique writing style for the school magazine, his delivery and expressions are utterly priceless.
Sid himself is not a particularly dynamic character. In fact, he’s pretty ineffectual – but that’s the whole point. His fall from grace is deftly handled to produce a compellingly complex portrait of a man who is forced to accept responsibility for his own (in)actions. Unlike the blunter dramas of nowadays, Big Sid has been written and performed in such a carefully constructed way with numerous laugh out loud moments it will certainly leave you bowled over.
The Fiction Stroker gives Big Sid four strokes out of five:
Big Sid continues at the Lass O’Gowrie, Charles Street until Sunday 4 August. Photography by the excellent Shay Rowan.