The World Cup Final 1966, BAC, London

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The Independent Culture

The actor, writer and football fan Colin Welland missed the 1966 World Cup final because he was on stage in a matinee at the Royal Court. Welland would do well to get down to the Battersea Arts Centre, where the latest in that bold theatre's series of Christmas shows elevates the famous match to the level of the epic, in the mode of earlier BAC offerings Ben Hur and Jason and the Argonauts.

The actor, writer and football fan Colin Welland missed the 1966 World Cup final because he was on stage in a matinee at the Royal Court. Welland would do well to get down to the Battersea Arts Centre, where the latest in that bold theatre's series of Christmas shows elevates the famous match to the level of the epic, in the mode of earlier BAC offerings Ben Hur and Jason and the Argonauts.

A note in the programme confirms that Carl Heap and Tom Morris wrote the piece with non-supporters uppermost in mind. So, when the choreographer Darren Royston stages football sequences in slow motion, a vivid and often hilarious theatricality is achieved that would beguile even the most hardened football atheist.

But fundamentalist football fans get a funny and affectionate homage to the iconic freeze-frame footage from Goal!, the official film of the 1966 World Cup, with its patrician voice-over scripted by Brian Glanville and percussive jazz score.

This is total football and total theatre, which have come together in Scottish community theatre - although folk theatre would be better - for some years. Such shows as The Lions of Lisbon (about Celtic winning the European Cup, and starring Gary Lewis, later Billy Elliot's dad) at the Pavilion have brought many a punter from plastic seat to plush. Yet all the English stage has had is the execrable Elton-Lloyd Webber musical The Beautiful Game.

This great show remedies that. Physical theatre, mime and even medieval mystery play meet with astonishing theatrical ingenuity and often just rank daftness (Bobby Moore is described in a country pastiche as being "Barking-born/ With hair as yella as the Dagenham corn"). Others will imitate. But, like the 1966 World Cup winners for Beckham and co, this is the show they'll be judged against.

The ensemble playing is superb. Niall Ashdown invests Nobby Stiles with shades of Vic Reeves. Edward Woodall could transfer his Jack Charlton to a production of Cymbeline and be the funniest Cloten ever.

Jason Barnett's Alf Ramsey, a Dagenham Churchill with cut-glass vowels, rounds up his side one by one, like Yul Brynner in The Magnificent Seven. And, speak of the devil, there's Yul himself (Derek Elroy), one of a myriad of cameos; each of the 12-strong cast a Russian doll (and one of them a Russian linesman) with a seemingly never-ending parade of characters inside them.

Shoot me, but, as a Scot, I reserve the right to maintain that Geoff Hurst's second goal has yet to cross the line. But when the cast of this joyful show, in the best panto tradition, turned to the audience for adjudication on that very matter, I shouted, "Oh yes it did," with the best of them. Even Denis Law, the legendary Scottish footballer, would love this show. And he famously elected to play golf on the day rather than watch the match, in case England won.

To 15 January (020-7223 2223)

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