This tremendous play will linger in the memory for a long time for many reasons, not least the performance of actor Jamie Brown whose portrayal of famous Geordie rower Harry Clasper was superb.
For 90 or so minutes Brown, the only actor in the show, held our collective attention as he took us through the ups and many downs of his journey, from a wannabe to being crowned world champion when he led his three brothers and Uncle Ned to win the Championship of the World in 1845.
This is a story about humiliating defeats, overcoming obstacles and even death to realise the dream. It’s not just a sporting story, it’s also a euphemism for life.
Thanks to Ed Waugh’s excellent script we get a feel of Harry Clasper’s life from his birth in 1812 during the Napoleonic wars through the industrial revolution and the rise of great rivers like the Tyne, and their rowing champions.
The first half is more a drama-mentary. While interesting in itself, director Russell Floyd excels as he introduces dramatic devices to establish the world of the 19th century. It’s informative, funny, poignant and highly entertaining in equally measures.
The second half, however, is when Brown and Floyd emulate the Clasper racing crew. The latter became worldbeaters because they worked as one. Likewise with this creative duo.
The race itself is stunning. Brown re-enacts the whole eight minutes of the race and it’s literally breathtaking. We, the audience are in the boat with him. By the end you feel every ache, pain and the psychological turmoil he’s experiencing. It’s exhilarating, leaving you as drained and exhausted as he is.
The Blaydon Races was written for Harry and as Brown sings the final verse, even a non-Geordie like me can’t fail to be caught up in the emotion of it all. This will leave not only a tear in your eye and a lump in your throat but will swell your heart with pride.
Hadaway Harry runs at the boathouse, South Shields, until tomorrow and tours Durham, North Shields and Newcastle before returning to South Tyneside when it is performed at Bede’s World Jarrow on Friday and Saturday, July 10 and 11.
For tickets at the Maritime Trust boathouse contact 424 7788 and for Bede’s World contact 4892106 or 4892106.