The Greater Game at Waterloo East Theatre

Thursday 25 October 2018

Off-West End - Shows

Michael Greco and James Phelps star in The Greater Game due at Waterloo East Theatre from October 30 to 25 November 2018 - find out more about the show as we meet the cast and creative team.
The Greater Game at Waterloo East Theatre

Image courtesy Stephen Jenkins and Peter Kitchen

Following a 5 star run at Southwark Playhouse in 2017, The Greater Game has been re-drafted and is set to return at Waterloo East Theatre from October 30 to November 25 2018 (schedule information and link to book tickets below).

Michael Greco will play war hero and football manager Billy Holmes alongside Harry Potter's James Phelps who is exchanging a wizard wand for a rifle as he moves from the Battle of Hogwarts to the Battle of the Somme.

Other cast members include award winning actors Paul Marlon (Communion, Dangerous Mind Of A Hooligan, Essex Boys Retribution) and Scott Kyle (Outlander, Kilo Two Bravo, The Angels Share) as well as Victoria Gibson and Helena Doughty.

All of them are lining-up under the stewardship of multi award winning director Adam Morley who will present The Greater Game as part of Football Remembers, a pan football initiative set up by the FA, Premier League, English Football League (EFL) and PFA which will support a range of projects commemorating the Armistice and conclusion of the First World War Centenary.

The Greater Game tells the true story of some of the footballers who signed up to fight in the Great War, focusing on lifelong friends Richard McFadden (James Phelps) and William Jonas (Steven Bush) who travelled from Newcastle to London to play football for Clapton Orient, before swapping England for France to 'fight for King and Country' - a fight neither one would survive.

More than a story of football or war, The Greater Game is a story of love, friendship, sacrifice, triumph and loss. 

Producer Peter Kitchen said ...

"It is very rare you get a chance to tell a true story where the families of the fallen are directly involved - even more so when it is such a touching yet funny true story.

The last show got a standing ovation every night and word of mouth led to over 4,000 people seeing the first production, which we are all very proud of, so to get the chance to tell this amazing true story one more time and do justice to the men and woman who sacrificed so much 100 years ago is a real honour"

The show was written by Michael Head on the back of his 5 star show 'Worth A Flutter' - currently being considered for a West End Transfer following a highly successful run at Islington's Hope Theatre.

Michael said ...

"To get the chance to tell this story, to touch so many and bring an audience to tears and fill the theatre with laugher was a real pleasure and this time everything is set to be even stronger than our first run".

The Greater Game at Waterloo East Theatre

Cast of The Greater Game in rehearsals

At rehearsals ...

ActDrop asked Sally Redman to interview the cast and creative team at rehearsals.

Here's her report ...

Today I was invited to spend some time with the cast of The Greater Game, which includes James Phelps who, as a huge Harry Potter fan, I know better as Fred Weasley, and Michael Greco who is my mum's number one celebrity crush (and after meeting him I can see why).

So I almost bounced onto the Central line to travel to my destination - Leyton Orient's football stadium.

Then the the fear kicked in because … I don't like football, in fact I hate it.

I lost a boyfriend to a season ticket for Crystal Palace and know even less about sport (I thought the offside rule was a bar in Benidorm).

I enter the dressing room (yes, they are rehearsing in a dressing room) to be greeted by a large cast and director, and then sit to watch a few scenes rehearsed.

The director looks over his shoulder and says "this is only our third day so please excuse us - it may be a little rough"... well, if this is a little rough, then I can't wait for press night!

As I watch, I'm transferred to a world of laughter, fun and charm, before being hit with a scene that makes me sob to the point where the director thought it was best to call it a day and start with the interview …

I wipe my eyes, compose myself and get down to business ...

Many of you have had very successful careers and must have a lot of offers, what made you say yes to this production and script?

Scott Kyle: The biggest attraction was a combination of three things: live theatre, football - which would have been my first career choice before acting - and last but not least, the chance to represent these incredible young men and tell their story.

Michael Greco: I have always had the utmost regard for excellent storytelling and when I feel something hits the right note with me then I want to know more and get involved.

It's not always the case obviously, but in this instance I couldn't put the script down and needed to know how it all unravels.

Scott: Same when I read the script for The Greater Game, I jumped at the chance to be involved.

James Phelps: I would say the same - I love football and have always been interested in The Great War, so to read something so well written that really touched me and made me laugh was too good to turn down.

When I first read it I cried my eyes out and then couldn't believe it was a true story

Does being a true story bring a different element to your performance and what excites you about your character and does it bring more pressure?

Michael Greco: Playing a real person brings me incredible joy.

Just knowing that this person existed and lived the life of a professional footballer - which happened to be my schoolboy dream.

The fact that my character is very different to myself gives me a great challenge.

This is something actors love in our profession - creating characters far removed from themselves.

Scott: The short answer is Yes 100%.

Playing a real person brings huge pressure on the cast as we know that the family of the people we are representing on stage will be in the audience.

It's a different type of pressure to the normal pressures of performing live on stage.

James: My character was a real life hero.

As a civilian he saved two boys from a river and a baby from a burning building.

He then received medals for his bravery on the front, so there is pressure to get the character right.

We are literally re-creating family history - this also makes it more special as it is a once in a lifetime opportunity to bring these people to life and pay our respects.

Michael Head: I agree.

I have been lucky enough to have performed my role before, and to have family members of the characters and people who have served in the army or lost loved ones in the audience, brings a real pressure.

But it's also rewarding to see how moved the Chelsea pensioners were or to be hugged by Jonas's great granddaughter, and thanked for bringing their family to life - it's such an honour and something I have never felt as an actor or writer outside of this play.

There are so many war plays - what makes this stand out?

Michael Greco: I think it is told from a very personal and real place, plus a slightly different perspective - working class men, not officers.

Scott Kyle: The passion of the men on the football pitches and the bravery of the young boys who went to fight for their country.

It's going to be a rollercoaster of emotions from start to finish, laughing, dancing, singing and crying.

Michael Greco: It also has real truth and emotion and hopefully the audience will feel moved by the real life stories of these brave young men.

James: It also has real humour laced through it - what surprised me on reading it was how many laughs are in the show as well as the hard hitting moments.

Michael Head: This is something I aimed for.

I think some war plays can be very heavy and depressing and this for me doesn't do the people justice … yes it is sad, and some moments are very hard-hitting but these people's lives were more than that.

It is also filled with love, laughs and relationships.

James: Yes, it is not about football or war, but relationships and that is very touching.

What should the audience expect?

Michael Greco: I think the audience should expect to see a play that shows the passion and desire that we all have for the beautiful game.

The writer and director are huge football fans and so are all the cast, so I think the audience will see genuine love for these characters that we are all trying to portray and hopefully do these people and their families justice.

Scott: It's a big cast with a huge amount of talent, so the audience are in for a treat.

We have some of the best talent from the world of television, movies and stage so it's not one you would want to miss.

If I wasn't in it I'd definitely be coming along and paying for my ticket to be able to say "I was there".

Hopefully audiences take up the chance and come along.

James: I echo the above, a show of passion filled with laughter and tears, a true story that should not be missed and enjoyed by all.

Michael Head: As a writer I think theatre has one aim only, to entertain.

If it makes people think or find some political view then that is fine, but I do not try to influence people, only entertain and this is no different.

Last time this show made people laugh and cry and we got a standing ovation every night, and this show is even stronger, the cast are so talented, it is an amazing true story with laughs and tears.

I think the audience should expect to be entertained by talented actors who tell a great story.

Michael Greco: … which is beautifully written (as Michael says this Michael Head gives him a ten pound note!).

Is football important to the play and, as a non-football fan, should I be worried about seeing it?

Michael Greco: The audience shouldn't be dissuaded if they don't like football.

It's an incredible true story that will capture the hearts and imaginations of everyone who comes to see it.

We will hopefully take the audience along with us to a wonderful story of bravery and truth.

Scott: First and foremost this is a fantastic piece of theatre, it just happens to be based on a true story and be set in and around a fantastic football club.

You will be in for an amazing theatrical experience that will hopefully be entertaining, emotional and uplifting.

James: My wife hates football and is not a massive fan of war films or plays (" … or James", chips in Paul Stevens who seems the joker of the cast, injecting a touch of his character's personality into the discussion).

Ok, or me, so she was not thrilled when i took this job.

I asked her to read the play, and she called me while I was out to say she had read it and loved it … which I think says it all?

Michael Head: Same - my father-in-law could not name five players and goes on holiday to avoid the world cup, yet he loves this play and he is always brutally honest with me!

This is not about war or football it is about relationships between a husband and a wife trying to have children, between a father who leaves his son in order to protect him, between best friends, between a young lad and his father figure.

It means so many different things to different people and football and war are just settings and certainly not important to an audience member's enjoyment.

Sally will be reviewing The Greater Game at Waterloo East Theatre for ActDrop at press night on November 1st.

About Football Remembers

The Greater Game is part of Football Remembers, a collective campaign relaunched for 2018 by the FA, Premier League, EFL and PFA enabling English football to collectively mark the culmination of the First World War Centenary and the Armistice commemorations.


Based on the book They Took The Lead by Stephen Jenkins, The Greater Game tells the true story of the 42 men from Clapton Orient who signed up En Masse to fight in the great war focusing on the bond of two life long friends Richard MacFadden and William Jonas who met near Newcastle aged 7 before moving to London to play football then enlisting to fight in the Battle Of The Somme with tragic consequences.


Billy Holmes - Michael Greco 

Richard McFadden - James Phelps

Elizabeth McFadden - Helena Doughty 

William Jonas - Steven Bush

Mary Jane Jonas - Victoria Gibson

George Scott - Scott Kyle 

Fred 'Spider' Parker - Jack Harding

Nolan 'Peggy' Evans - Paul Marlon

Jimmy Hugall - Tom Stocks

Herbert 'Jumbo' Reason - Michael Head


Author: Michael Head
Director: Adam Morley
Designer: Lauren Flynn
Production: Stephen Jenkins and Peter Kitchen


Waterloo East Theatre
Brad Street


From: Tuesday 30 October 2018

Closed: Sunday 25 November 2018


Previews: £17.50

Standard: £22

Concessions: £19


Show website
ActDrop full listing for The Greater Game

Book tickets for ...

Buy tickets for Thrill Me the leopold & loeb story at the Hope Theatre