TV Review – Marvellous

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Toby Jones with Neil Baldwin

I watched this on the BBC the other day and I have to admit on reflection I have mixed feelings about it. It is based on the true story of Neil Baldwin, a registered clown known as Nello, who was once the kit man for Stoke City, and counted many famous people amongst his acquaintances.
I suppose one of the reasons I have mixed feelings is because of the concept was what a ‘friend’ is in the programme. Perhaps it is just me but a friend is not somebody that I just met yesterday; they are someone that I have known for a while, who I trust based on experience of being with them and whose well being and happiness is a concern of mine. The latter is a point I am concerned about with people who I have only just met, but the trust element is what takes time.
In Marvellous there is only one instance when placing faith in someone to give him a lift home forgets about him, leaving him stood waiting trusting they would come, until Malcolm who is his friend just happens to come across him by chance. My main concern about the show is this point that yes you can get to know people very quickly if you are inclined to do so, but please you really need to spend time with someone and learnt to trust them before you can know you can rely on them. Most people in the world are people you can trust and rely on, but there is always a minority you need to be careful of trusting.
Beyond that slight issue though, Marvellous is absolutely fantastic. I’m not particularly religious and I am certainly not a football fan, but I felt as if I could relate to Neil Baldwin because he is dedicated to his world. He is dedicated to his faith in the Church of England, and he is dedicated to his favourite Football club Stoke City, he is dedicated to the birds that he looks after, and he is dedicated to helping the students of Keele University. He fills his life with everything that he loves, and thinks of good things rather than dwell on anything bad. He gets sacked from his job as a clown in the opening scenes but he just moves on from it, not taking it personally and not letting himself be held back because of it.
Equally though when it comes to the banter he experiences at Stoke City when he is left as the butt of the jokes, he gets his own back in the most spectacular fashion. He might let a lot of things wash over him, but he is certainly not a door mat.
I also loved the scenes near the end, when he is struggling to cope with negativity and the true value of friendship comes to play. Two people in particular Malcolm, and Lou Macari give back to him what he has given to them; joy even in the face of despair. Both of them do this by connecting with his passion for football, perhaps because of his interests it is the one they can understand the best, but it helps him to find joy in every other aspect of his life again as well.
Marvellous can be heart breaking to watch at times, but it is a beautiful example of how being nice, being dedicated to what you love and having friends who would be there for you when you truly need them. It might be a show about a man who has learning difficulties, but I watched it as being about a man who simply had a perspective about living that we can all learn from, and while we need to be cautious in who we trust, being nice and friendly is a marvellous way to live.

 

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Tony Curran with Lou Macari

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