Never Trouble Trouble (Till Trouble Troubles You)

Aug 14 2023 | By More

★★★★☆      Emotional football

Tynecastle Park (Venue 347): Wed 2 – Mon 28 Aug 2023
Review by Hugh Simpson

Never Trouble Trouble (Till Trouble Troubles You) is another play at Tynecastle Park from Two Halves Productions that is essential for Hearts fans – and thoroughly accessible and entertaining for supporters of any club or none.

Scotland once had an impact on football out of proportion to its size. Many of the early developments in the game can be traced here, and as a proportion of the population those attending matches has exceeded anywhere else in Europe. It is difficult to credit due to its current polyglot, cosmopolitan nature, but for a century the backbone of the English game was its Scottish imports.

Nikki Auld and Paul Beeson. Pic Two Halves Productions

Despite that, there’s been few Scottish footballers who can truly have been considered world-class – Denis Law, almost certainly; possibly Kenny Dalglish. But in many ways the greatest of them all, the only Scottish player, with a genuine claim to be considered the greatest in the world in his day, is Bobby Walker of Hearts (1879 – 1930).

His competitive obscurity nowadays can be excused by the fact that his heyday was well over a century ago. There is only one possible piece of footage of him in existence, so flickeringly indistinct it is uncertain if it really is him in action.


But he was undoubtedly a superstar of his day – 29 caps when it was unusual for Scotland to play more than three games a season. This meant that he was his country’s most capped player for decades, and Hearts’ for nearly a century (he is still third on the list at Hearts). He is credited with being the inventor of the body swerve, so influential that ‘Walkerism’ was coined to describe his brand of football, and as late as the 1930s widely hailed as ‘the most natural footballer in the world ever seen’. And he scored more goals against Hibs than even John Robertson.

Paul Beeson and Nikki Auld. Pic Two Halves Productions

Walker’s post-football life also had a distinctly tragic tinge, but until Colin Robertson and Andrew Hoggan’s 2021 book there was not even a biography. Now there is an adaptation of his life with music, from the company behind the astonishing War of Two Halves and the magnificent Sweet FA.

This does not necessarily have the same resonance as those two subjects, which perhaps explains why it has that (pleasantly couthy if somewhat unwieldy) title rather than directly referencing Walker. It is accordingly on a smaller scale – starting in the fans’ bar under the Main Stand, but mostly in the intimate surroundings of the Hearts museum. The musical backing is largely recorded rather than live, and it is a two-hander, but it has a grip, a magnetism and an emotional scope that constantly bewitch.

narrative clarity

Writer Paul Beeson plays Walker, with Nikki Auld as his mother, who was an influential figure in his career, playing the role an agent would fill nowadays. The two performers also fill in all of the other necessary parts.

There is a spare quality and narrative clarity to Beeson’s script, with his performance being thoroughly compelling. Auld also impresses with emotional lucidity.

Paul Beeson and Nikki Auld. Pic Two Halves Productions

There are in-jokes (some clearly penned extremely recently) and expansive comedy, such as the Hibs director presented as a villain from Victorian melodrama. But there is also sorrow, with Walker’s struggles with alcohol presented non-judgementally; an evocation of the original Ibrox disaster of 1902 is done with tact and is genuinely chilling.

Director Bruce Strachan handles such tonal switches expertly; an exceptionally intimate performance space, which nevertheless handles a sell-out crowd with ease, is signally well used. That perennial problem of representing football in a play is done with wit and charm. The music of Matthew Brown is utilised comparatively sparingly but has a directness and illustrative power.

If you are a Jambo, this is simply unmissable. Students of football history can also add a fifth star (although caution for any Hibs fans of a nervous disposition is definitely advised). For everyone else, this is still a highly recommended piece of theatre.

Running time: 1 hour 30 minutes (no interval)
Tynecastle Park, (Hearts Museum), Gorgie Rd, EH11 2NL (Venue 347)
Wednesday 2 – Monday 28 August 2023
Evenings of 2-4, 7-8, 11, 14-15, 18-19, 21-22, 25-28 at 7.30 pm; Matinees 4, 11, 18-19, 25-27 at 3.00 pm
Tickets and details Book here

Two Halves Productions links

Facebook: @twohalvesprod

Instagram: @twohalvesprod

Twitter: @TwoHalvesProd

Nikki Auld and Paul Beeson. Pic Two Halves Productions

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