One to grapple with

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BACK in the dark ages of television when there were only – wait for it – three channels, millions of Britons and countless more worldwide spent their Saturday afternoons glued to ITV’s wrestling coverage.

If you were one of those fans who developed a slightly odd fascination with watching Big Daddy and Giant Haystacks pretend to fight each other then you are in for a treat next Friday.

For the larger than life grunt and groaners are back, albeit from beyond the grave, and they’re onstage at the Old Town Hall in Hemel Hempstead.

If you still have absolutely no idea what we’re talking about then ask someone over the age of 40 and they’ll soon put you straight on the extraordinary sports phenomenon that once gripped the nation.

Big Daddy – real name Shirley Crabtree, honestly – was famous for his record-breaking 64 inch chest and spandex leotards fashioned by his wife Eunice.

Giant Haystacks (Martin Ruane) – who lived just a year longer, dying in 1998 – stood at a whopping 6ft 11ins and dwarfed his opponent’s comparatively slight 26 stone with his own colossal 48 stone bulk.

Every Saturday at 4pm millions, including the Queen apparently, would turn on the box hoping to see the two heavyweight wrestlers, bellies bulging, scant costumes revealing way too much, collide with each other on the canvas in a bizarre pantomime act.

Now award-winning comedy writing duo Brian Mitchell and Joseph Nixon, who wrote the Edinburgh hit play Those Magnificent Men, present their new play about the two much-loved wrestlers and the strange lives they led.

Featuring Latest 7 Award and Herald Angel winner Ross Gurney-Randall as Big Daddy and others, and BBC Radio 4’s Count Arthur Strong’s Radio Show regular David Mounfield as Giant Haystacks and different others, this ambitious, touching, and hilarious two-hander conjures up a whole nation during a colourful era.

It’s a comedy drama not to be missed.

Big Daddy Versus Giant Haystacks will be at the Old Town Hall Theatre, Hemel Hempstead on Friday, May 18 at 8pm. Call the box office on 01442 228091 for tickets or go online at