Neil Baldwin’s fantastical life told in Marvellous at New Vic

This might sound like a tall tale; one you won’t believe. It is a tale filled with football stars, comedians, and bishops; circus acts, budgies, and politicians; mayors and Her Majesty and a B.E.M. This is a story of a fantastical life.

From the moment he was born, Neil knew he was destined to do wonderful things.

And so that is what he did. He joined a church choir then appeared on Songs of Praise; he hitchhiked across the country then became a famous clown; he went to see his local football team then became their kit man; he left school at 14 with no qualifications then received an honorary degree from Keele University.

And he became a hero.

The New Vic Theatre presents the premiere Neil Baldwin and Malcolm Clarke’s Marvellous, the remarkable story of Stoke City FC kit man, clown and all-round hero, Neil ‘Nello’ Baldwin, adapted for the stage by Neil Baldwin and Theresa Heskins.

Marvellous is a brand-new play, commissioned especially for the New Vic, Nello’s local theatre, and created in conjunction with Neil Baldwin himself.

With words almost entirely Nello’s own, Marvellous combines a playful script with physical comedy and New Vic artistic director Theresa Heskins’ inimitable directorial style, to bring to life this incredible story about how you can realise your dreams – even when society tries to limit you with a label.

Heskins said: “Through thick and thin, the prospect of staging the story of Nello’s inspirational life has given us cause to smile. 

“His optimistic outlook and talent for happiness rubs off on everyone he meets. And Marvellous is going to do exactly the same.

“It’s a story of joy and sadness; of realising dreams; of belonging and othering; of how labels both limit us and protect us; of what constitutes a hero – and why we need them.

“It’s a play that is as straightforward, direct and sunny as Neil is: it will fill audiences with optimism, bring people together and spread happiness.”

Neil Baldwin said: “Theresa said, ‘I would like to make a play about you’ and I thought ‘why make a play about me?’ which is the same thing I said about the film!

“The cast are lovely, we’re friends already. I am really looking forward to seeing it all come together, I hope the theatre will be filled every night! It’s going to be great.”

Previously adapted into a BAFTA winning film and a book, Neil’s life-affirming story now inspires this brand-new stage play.

The production also forms part of the celebrations at the New Vic to mark the 60th anniversary of its theatre-making in Newcastle-under-Lyme, Stoke-on-Trent, and Staffordshire.

Originally the Victoria Theatre Company, the first professional theatre company in Britain to perform permanently in-the-round and founded 60 years ago in October 1962 by Peter Cheeseman, Marvellous continues the New Vic tradition for producing documentary-style plays that tell stories of real-lives.

Directed by Heskins, Marvellous features a seven-strong cast including neurodiverse actors.

Marvellous will be performed by Suzanne Ahmet (Pride and Prejudice, Grosvenor Open Air Theatre Chester); Charlie Bence (Martha, Josie and the Chinese Elvis, Park Theatre London); Gareth Cassidy (The 39 Steps, The Prince and the Pauper, New Vic); Alex Frost (The Full Monty, UK Tour); Michael Hugo (Coppelia – A Mystery, The 39 Steps, New Vic); Jerone Marsh-Reid (The Strange Tale Of Charlie Chaplin And Stan Laurel, UK Tour) and Daniel Murphy, who will all play versions of themselves playing Neil Baldwin and a whole host of other characters.

Marvellous runs at the New Vic Theatre, Newcastle-under-Lyme (on various dates) from March 11 – April 9.

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