Thoughts on ‘We Love You City’ from Talking Birds
Belgrade Theatre, Coventry – Until 16th October

I was probably sitting in A&E, waiting for some curious object to be
removed from my nose, or ear, when Coventry FC was winning the FA cup
in 1987. At 4, I had very little understanding of football, and still
do really – so it’s safe to say that Talking Birds were going to have
to work pretty hard to win me over with their most recent instalment
‘We Love You City’.

Produced for the Belgrade Theatre, We Love You City is set against the
real-time length of a football match; splicing carefully choreographed
action sequences with a series of inter-relational stories played out
by a cast 11 strong (you know why).

As the audience are taken through a parallel journey between
depictions of crucial cup final moments, and tales of Coventry’s
people in the lead up to the history making end, We Love You City
presents itself as honest, from the heart, and with a gritty
dedication which should not be underestimated from the start.

The real-life inspired stories that writer Nick Walker has created
will be familiar to all who lived in 1980’s Coventry; racial and
economic tension, loss, resulting friendship and family frustrations,
the connections are accentuated carefully and effectively build
momentum throughout the ‘game’ via wonderful sensory subtleties and a
understated score from Derek Nisbet which stimulates chants from the
bottom of the most unsuspecting stomach.

The 11 cast members present feats of physical excellence which become
steadily more impressive as the show climaxes, creating an electric
match-like atmosphere and tension where tension is due. Some fleeting
quieter moments during the show provide a necessary point for
reflection on the recession hit Coventry setting and accentuate the
excitement and energy displayed by the actors at every stage. With
back up from a streamlined and effective set design by Janet Vaughan,
clambered all over and holding fast throughout, the show is
continually delivered with pitch-perfection, leaving a feeling that we
might approach any of the cast in the street with a strong pat on the
back and a ‘well done lads’.

If I was sat in A&E on 16th May 1987, I now have a new memory of that
event. One where I am surrounded by some of the people who lent their
memories to this show, on the edge of seats and biting nails, and the
characters that made Coventry FC winning the world cup a continued
source of inspiration for Coventry its people and its arts.

Having followed Talking Birds since moving to Coventry in 2007, I find
this show consistent to their style; simple ideas, crafted and
executed perfectly. And, if your idea of perfection is Coventry FC
winning the FA cup, I recommend a trip to We Love You City before
October 16th.

Laura Elliott