Theatre review: The Sunderland Story is a must see for any SAFC fan

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The Sunderland Story is two hours of history and nostalgia for both the football club and Wearside.

It’s a story about the ups and downs of supporting Sunderland AFC as seen through the eyes of the Carter family and their ancestors.

With the overall theme set at the wake of a funeral, the family of SAFC supporters recount the history of the Black Cats, starting in 1879 and through to the present day.

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Most of the major club events are covered in the production, with past glories and failures touched on in an equally positive and humorous way.

Ahead of the performance, there was an anticipation of what the show would actually be and the best way to describe it is as a musical comedy with pantomine elements thrown in to the mix.

Cast members of The Sunderland Story on stage at the Empire Theatre. Photo: David Wood. Cast members of The Sunderland Story on stage at the Empire Theatre. Photo: David Wood.
Cast members of The Sunderland Story on stage at the Empire Theatre. Photo: David Wood. | David Wood

Many of the songs featured in The Sunderland Story will be more than familiar with Black Cats fans from the stands at the Stadium of Light.

The audience has the opportunity to join in with Can’t Help Falling in Love, Sunderland ‘Til I Die, Sunderland Take Over, and more.

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As the characters on stage recount the history of Sunderland AFC, they don silly costumes to recount the time period they are talking about and don’t take themselves too seriously if someone makes a slip up from the script or there is a technical problem, which just adds to the fun of the evening.

Even the stage itself was set out in a great way, with the bar of The Wheatsheaf pub on the stage left, providing the back drop for the hosting of the wake.

The Wheatsheaf pub provided the backdrop of the funeral’s wake. Photo: David Wood. The Wheatsheaf pub provided the backdrop of the funeral’s wake. Photo: David Wood.
The Wheatsheaf pub provided the backdrop of the funeral’s wake. Photo: David Wood. | David Wood

In the centre was the terraces of Roker Park that led up to a huge screen which showcased images from years gone by, footage of iconic goals and headlines from the Sunderland Echo - all of which were used by the cast to tell the story.

Perhaps the most unusual feature was that the musicians, titled the The Black Cat Band, were sitting stage right, with a couple of them also involved in the main production.

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Thursday’s (May 18) showing was made even more special by SAFC hosting its gala night on the same evening - with many familiar faces at the club in attendance.

As a result, when the show touched on the 1973 FA Cup win, Montgomery, Malone and Pitt were presented on stage holding the trophy to create an emotional and uplifting moment.

Costumes were used by the cast to recount the different time periods of Sunderland AFC. Photo: David Wood. Costumes were used by the cast to recount the different time periods of Sunderland AFC. Photo: David Wood.
Costumes were used by the cast to recount the different time periods of Sunderland AFC. Photo: David Wood. | David Wood

Then as part of the encore, current Black Cats boss Tony Mowbray and club legend Kevin Phillips were also both equally well received by the audience.

The Sunderland Story does what it sets out to do and more - it celebrates the city of Sunderland and its football club perfectly.

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Whether you’re a die hard Black Cats fan or someone is frequents a few games a season, you just won’t be able to help falling in love with The Sunderland Story.

The show is running at the Sunderland Empire until Saturday, May 27, with tickets still available at atgtickets.com/sunderland.

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