A new stage play about the tragic decline of former England and Northamptonshire batsman Colin Milburn is being staged at all the first class County Cricket Clubs as part of its UK National tour in November. It has been commissioned by the Professional Cricketers’ Association as part of its Mind Matters campaign with the support of the Arts Council England.
When the Eye Has Gone which will be staged during a month’s tour of all the 18 First Class County Club Headquarters including Lords and The Oval with the tour starting next week on 3rd November at Glamorgan County Cricket Club, Cardiff. Tickets which cost £10 for adults and £8 for concession are available online.
When The Eye Has Gone is set in the bar of The North Briton pub in Newton Aycliffe, County Durham, during Milburn’s cabaret performance as ‘Jolly Ollie’, the character he developed that concealed his insecurities and suffering. With songs, anecdotes and a large gin and coke, the story swings backwards and forwards through Milburn’s life as he raises a glass to his triumphs and setbacks. The date is 28 February 1990, the day of his death.
The extraordinary story of Colin Milburn belongs to a passing cricket generation and will surely never be repeated. He was a man with colossal talent and build, weighing 18-stone at his batting peak. Yet in 1966 he forced his way into the England side for the first of his nine Tests, an almost unimaginable scenario in the present era of intense physiology and fitness monitoring.
Milburn’s selection against the fearsome pace of the legendary West Indies fast bowlers Wes Hall proved a masterstroke as with a combination of great bravery and skill he struck a blistering 94 in his First Test at Old Trafford followed by a glorious hundred at Lords only to be dropped for the last Test of the series because of his immobility in the field.
All too briefly he became a household name, and he even caused a sensation playing for Western Australia in the Sheffield Shield one winter, smashing 243 against Queensland at Brisbane on the first day before his dismissal just after tea. He was called up for the England tour of Pakistan and made 139 at Karachi in a Test cut short by crowd riots. The following May, in 1969, Milburn lost his left eye in a car crash in Northampton, an injury that effectively ended his career and life prospects. He returned to Durham, and his boozy decline ended with his death from a heart attack at the age of 48. He was buried in Burnopfield where he first caught the eye as a boy prodigy on the local cricket field. Ian Botham was one of the pall bearers.
The play When The Eye Has Gone was written by the award winning playwright Dougie Blaxland, nom de plume of James Graham-Brown, a former Derbyshire and Kent all-rounder. The production is a collaboration between the Professional Cricketers’ Association, Roughhouse Theatre and Live Wire Theatre.
The part of Colin Milburn will be played by 42 year old actor Dan Gaisford who trained at Guildford School of Music and Drama where he won the award for Best Postgraduate Actor. Dan has worked extensively in TV, film and theatre and most recently played the role of Kenneth to critical acclaim in the UK tour of Clybourne Park.