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27Jul. 2017.

Zigger Zagger, Zigger Zagger, Oi, Oi, Oi!


It’s fifty years since National Youth Theatre made history with Zigger Zagger, the first play to tackle the subject of football hooliganism.


After devoting their first decade to Shakespeare with an occasional nod in the direction of Ben Johnson or George Bernard Shaw, they took a bold step in commissioning this groundbreaking work from Peter Terson. Terson was still a relatively young writer and one of the grittiest, yet still poetic, playwrights of the time. Zigger Zagger was first staged at the Jeannetta Cochrane Theatre in 1967, screened by the BBC the same year, then enjoyed eight revivals and tours over the next 20 years. The play was the beginning of a long and highly successful collaboration between NYT and the prolific Peter Terson, with the company staging 11 more of his plays in 18 separate productions.  NYT’s founder and first Director, the legendary Michael Croft, always referred to his best times at NYT at The Terson Years. “Peter Terson was the writer I’d been looking for since we started,” Croft told The Stage’s Nick Smurthwaite in his final interview before he died in 1986, “somebody who could write plays for kids without patronising them, someone with a keen and wise eye, and a generosity of spirit towards the more unlikeable aspects of human nature.”

Reactions to the play were far in excess of anything expected and Zigger Zagger drew packed houses, attracted massive critical acclaim and generated a great deal of press and media interest. In his review for The Observer, Ronald Bryden commented “It leaves the back of one's neck in no doubt that something very big and happy indeed, in the person of Peter Terson, is about to happen to the British theatre”; and Benedict Nightingale describes it as “what may be the best football play yet”, claiming that Terson had “surpassed himself with this commission for the National Youth Theatre” when listing Zigger Zagger in The Times Great Moments in Theatre in 2010.


Scenes from the 1967 production featuring Nigel Humphreys as Harry Philton and Tony May as Zigger Zagger


Revivals in London and Barcelona from 1968, 1975 and 1987

Fifty years to the week after it took the theatre world by storm, NYT will revive Zigger Zagger here at Wilton’s as part of its East End Season. Rehearsals begin next week and we’re really looking forward to bringing you  glimpses behind the scenes and sharing the fun with you.

In the meantime, to give you an idea of the zeitgeist of the scene onto which Zigger Zagger exploded, here is a reminder of what was going on in 1967 (in no particular order and far from exhaustive):

It was the Summer of Love
Harold Wilson was in Number Ten
The UK applied for EEC membership
BBC Radio One was launched
So was the QE2
Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and Marianne Faithful were arrested for drugs offences
The Sexual Offences Act partially decriminalised male homosexuality
Sandie Shaw went barefoot and won the Eurovision Song Contest with ‘Puppet on a String’
Manchester United won the Football league First Division
Kings Road and Carnaby Street were hot spots to shop and Biba in Kensington was a Mecca for fashion-lovers
Vidal Sassoon still reigned as Scissor King
Jimi Hendrix recorded ‘Purple Haze’ and first set fire to his guitar on stage at the Finsbury Park Astoria
The breathalyser was introduced
The inquiry into the Aberfan disaster blamed the National Coal Board for the deaths of 164 people, mostly children, the previous year
Playwright Joe Orton was battered to death by his lover, Kenneth Halliwell in their Islington flat; Halliwell then committed suicide
The Forsyte Saga was on the telly (the first time round); so was The Prisoner, Dixon of Dock Green and Z-Cars
ITV launched News At Ten as Sooty abandoned the BBC to join it
BBC2 carried the first  scheduled colour television broadcast
Paul McCartney met Linda Eastman and Elvis married Priscilla
Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead premiered at the Old Vic and Olivier staged it at the National later that year
The Evening Standard Theatre Awards announced A Day in the Death of Joe Egg as Best Play and Sweet Charity as Best Musical
The Abortion Act was passed
The Queen Elizabeth Hall opened
Blow-Up was in the cinemas, starring Vanessa Redgrave and Jane Birkin plus David Hemmings in a role inspired by Swinging London photographer David Bailey
Meanwhile, the real David Bailey was shooting Jean Shrimpton, Catherine Deneuve (then his wife) and Twiggy
Also on at the flicks: The Graduate, Casino Royale, Cool Hand Luke, Bonnie and Clyde and The Jungle Book
The first ATM dispensed cash from a branch of Barclays Bank in Enfield
The St Pancras Station and Former Midland Grand Hotel was Grade I listed
Pink Floyd released their debut album and single
Desmond Morris’s The Naked Ape was published
Ford started making their super-new car in Dagenham – they named it the Escort
The Beatles recorded Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band and opened their Apple Shop on the corner of Paddington and Baker Streets
The world’s first live satellite broadcast included the Beatles performing ‘All You Need is Love’
Scott Walker recorded his first solo album
Meanwhile, over the water, Aretha Franklin recorded ‘Respect’
Alan Ayckbourn had his first major West End success with Relatively Speaking at the Duke Of York’s Theatre
The Conservatives won the Greater London Council elections
The Kray brothers murdered Jack ‘The Hat’ McVitie
Forty nine people died in the Hither Green rail disaster and eighty four were killed when a British Midland Airways plane crashed near Stockport

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