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THEATRE REVIEW: Ventoux, 2Magpies Theatre, South Holland Centre, Spalding




An auditorium full of cycling enthusiasts in Spalding soaked up an hour-long trip back to a notorious episode in sporting history.

Ventoux tells the story of how two cyclists, American Lance Armstrong and Italian Marco Pantani, went head to head on what is regarded as the hardest of all Tour de France climbs.

The production by 2Magpies Theatre, based in Nottingham, saw Alexander Gatehouse portray Armstrong and Matthew Seager depict the increasingly unpredictable Pantani, known to cycling fans as "The Pirate".

Alexander Gatehouse as Lance Armstrong and Matthew Seager as Marco Pantani in 2Magpies Theatre's production of cycling stage drama Ventoux at South Holland Centre, Spalding. Photo by Drew Forsyth.
Alexander Gatehouse as Lance Armstrong and Matthew Seager as Marco Pantani in 2Magpies Theatre's production of cycling stage drama Ventoux at South Holland Centre, Spalding. Photo by Drew Forsyth.

More than 30 years before the now discredited showdown on a summit nearly 6.300ft above sea level, Ventoux was the place of death for English cyclist Tom Simpson who was later found to have lost his life from a combination of a stomach upset, heat exhaustion, alcohol and amphetamines.

In July 2000, Armstrong was looking for his second Tour de France "win", while Pantani was aiming to regain the yellow jersey he had won two years earlier.

Ventoux centres on Stage 12, Armstrong and Pantani's confrontation with each other, along with the summit known as the dreaded "Giant of Provence".

Alexander Gatehouse as Lance Armstrong and Matthew Seager as Marco Pantani in 2Magpies Theatre's production of cycling stage drama Ventoux at South Holland Centre, Spalding. Photo by Drew Forsyth. (4970931)
Alexander Gatehouse as Lance Armstrong and Matthew Seager as Marco Pantani in 2Magpies Theatre's production of cycling stage drama Ventoux at South Holland Centre, Spalding. Photo by Drew Forsyth. (4970931)

Their duel on two wheels came 33 years to the day of Simpson's death in July 1967, an anniversary not lost on Gatehouse who is a lifelong cyclist himself, as well as an actor.

Ventoux uses a combination of archive coverage from the day, along with the two actors relaying the thoughts of the two cyclists involved.

Nearly 20 years on, both Pantani (who died of a heart attack in February 2004) and Armstrong (exposed by the US Anti-Doping Agency in October 2012 as the main beneficiary of "the most sophisticated, professionalised and successful doping program that sport has ever seen") belong the rogues' gallery of sporting frauds.

But what Ventoux does capture is the win-at-all-costs mentality that drove these two men to cross the line between ethical sporting competition and the suspension of all competitive morals.

Review by Winston Brown



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