Belfast Telegraph

Play turns spotlight on George Best's 'lost weekend' with Sinead Cusack

By Adrian Rutherford

A turbulent few days involving a troubled George Best is the focus of a new play.

The production at the Strand Arts Centre in east Belfast examines the lost weekend that Best spent in the Islington flat of Irish actress and friend Sinead Cusack in 1971.

Hello Georgie, Goodbye Best was co-written by and stars 27-year-old actor Robbie Martin, who hails from Greenisland, and Rafaela Elliston (23), from north London.

The pair met at drama school and came up with the idea for the play together.

Best had been dropped from the Manchester United team for missing training, but journeyed to London regardless and paid a visit to Ms Cusack.

The play looks at the time spent in her flat and their relationship that was put under great strain after Best's whereabouts were discovered.

Hordes of press and adoring fans laid siege outside the flat, entrapping the couple there for three days.

Although a great deal is known about Best, people can only guess about what really happened inside the flat over 40 years ago.

Audiences have an insight into Best's 'goldfish-bowl' lifestyle, only one year before he quit professional football.

Through Cusack, we realise the tragedy of George's life - while she is an actress on her way up, he is a footballer on his way out far too long before his time.

Robbie Martin said: "The interesting thing about George is that he is a flawed genius.

"His life is like a Shakespearean tragedy and for me it's finding out why the likes of George and many other Irishmen have that self-destruct button - are we wired differently in Northern Ireland?

"A lot of people think they know Besty - alcoholic, womaniser - but I think this play illustrates the issues he was dealing with at the time and why he made so many bad choices," the actor added.

"We know exactly what happened before and after the events based on autobiographies and TV footage, but with regards to what happened in the flat no one knows.

"All we had to go on was that Sinead said that George was distressed and upset.

"We carried out extensive character studies on both and we think the play is a good illustration of what they were like at that time."

Hello Georgie, Goodbye Best will be staged at the Strand Arts Centre from May 22-24. For more information and ticket details check out www.strandartscentre.com

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