‘You need a club that has a real story’: New play dramatising the history of Sunderland AFC coming to the Empire in 2023

A new play dramatising the history of Sunderland AFC is coming to the stage in 2023.

The Sunderland Story will run at the Sunderland Empire from Wednesday, May 17 – Saturday, May 27, just days after the 50th anniversary of the Black Cats’ historic FA Cup win.

Told through music, comedy and emotion, the show will take audiences from the club’s first trophy to the last season’s play-off final win via legendary managers and scorers including Watson, Stokoe, Reid, Cochrane, Campbell, and Gurney.

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“You need a club that has a real story"

The launch of the Sunderland Story at Sunderland Empire today (from left) producer Sean Marley, writer Nicky Allt, club historian Rob Mason, SAFC chief operating officer Steve Davison, head coach Tony Mowbray, chairman Kyril Louis-Dreyfus and SAFC press officer Oscar Chamberlain

It follows the Carter family, avid Sunderland fans, who, busy mourning the loss of the family patriarch, reminisce about tales of days gone by, family and friends, shipbuilding, mines, the newly emerging city of Sunderland and the bonds and memories that the beautiful game can create.

Producer Sean Marley, of Alterean Media, said: "You need a club that has a real story, a club that has a real history, and passionate fans for whom the club is a way of life,” he said.

Of course, The Sunderland Story will celebrate one of the biggest moments in SAFC’s history 50 years ago - that glorious 1973 FA Cup, but it promises to be about far more than that.

Writer Nicky Allt remembers playing football with his mates in Liverpool after the Wembley win – and three of his friends turning up in Sunderland strips.

The Sunderland Story will be performed at the Empire in May 2023.

"When Sunderland won that cup in ‘73, that was a story that went round the world,” he said.

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"That story stayed with me.

“I can’t wait to bring this show to life. When they talk about famous fan bases around the world, Sunderland will always be in that conversation.

“We hope people love this show so much they want to come back every two or three years”

Alterean Media producers from left Sean Marley and Peter Heckett with writer Nicky Allt
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"Where football is lifeblood and everything to its people, that is the story of the Red and White stripes. Sunderland is passion.”

He hopes to reinvent the show every few years and that it will evolve as the club’s story continues to unfold: "We hope people love this show so much they want to come back every two or three years,” he said

"It's not a show you will see once and say 'I have seen that'.

"You will want to come back.”

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Jimmy Montgomery and Kevin Ball at today's launch

He promised there would be plenty of chances for local actors in the production, adding: “It has got to be locally cast. It has to be Sunderland, Mackems, proper dyed-in-the-wool, red-and-white-striped people.”

Guests including club historian Rob Mason and SAFC legends Kevin Ball and Jimmy Montgomery were on hand to today’s launch alongside chairman Kyril Louis-Dreyfus, who said: “The 50th anniversary of our unforgettable FA Cup win represents a perfect opportunity to celebrate the moments and the people that have defined SAFC and the City of Sunderland over the past 143 years,” he said.

"I’m sure this project will be greeted with great passion from our supporters – young and old – and I look forward to joining them next May to relive our story in such a historic venue.”

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Empire director Marie Nixon added: “We are absolutely delighted to be exclusively hosting The Sunderland Story.

"This emotive production details such an important part in the formation of an incredible football club, the City of Sunderland and the people of Wearside’s history.

"To be able to bring SAFC’s devoted fans, young and old, into our historic theatre to relive this retelling of our local history truly is a joy.”

Tickets priced from £13 are on sale at 12pm Wednesday 14 December 2022 and are available online at www.ATGtickets.com/sunderland*

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*A £3.65 transaction fee applies to telephone and online bookings.