In an obituary of George Best, comrade Peter Hadden wrote “George Best composed poetry with his feet”. What a wonderful complement to a football genius from the working class streets of Belfast. And now Marie Jones and Martin Lynch have gone one further. They have “Besty” using those poetic feet dancing. And that soft Northern Irish accent singing in their unforgettable play “Dancing Shoes – The George Best Story”.
What seemed at first to be a musical based on George Best’s life is in fact, a play about his life with music, songs, dancing, humour and melancholy, which have their niches throughout the play, all moulded into the highs and lows of Best’s life. The audience are introduced to George as a boy in short trousers, whose constant companion is a football, kicking and juggling the ball from feet to head, using the streets and the cable walls of houses as a football pitch centred in and around his Belfast home, 16 Burren Way in the Cregagh estate. It is through this introduction that the play is launched on a musical odyssey of George Best’s life – “According to Martin Lynch and Marie Jones”.
From the outset, the cast takes on the exaggerated persona of people who have had an input to the path in Besty’s journey – to the heights of football fame and to his personal highs and lows.
It is George’s father Dickie, his mother Ann and the unforgettable Bob Bishop, the football scout who sent George to Manchester United, along with Eric McMorie, who kick off the play. The song, dance and humour continued throughout the play, with each scene contributing to the story of George’s life, although the play at times resembles a true historical picture of Besty’s life. If he were alive today, I’m sure he would have agreed on that.
But there is one scene in particular that truly displays the talents of the writers and the actors and that is the scene when Alex Higgins visits Besty in hospital. The two, instead of consoling each other, end up challenging each other as to who has the most fatal illness and who has been the most successful. One minute you are laughing hysterically, the next a lump forms inside your throat. After that, there is no holding back the tears. Although humour has a strong presence throughout, it is written and acted with respect for George Best.