It's common knowledge
that homophobia is a major issue in football, both at professional
and amateur levels. So the central premise of Tom Wells' new play
Jumpers for Goalposts is an intriguing one. It's
set in the changing-room for one of the teams in a five-a-side fun
league, all of which have daft names reflecting their unorthodox
composition – Tranny United, Lesbian Rovers, Barely Athletic, Man
City. The succession of scenes is announced by a radio voice iving
the results of each match.
Our lot are Barely
Athletic. Their coach is Viv, who would really prefer to be playing
for the lesbians,but is trying to help her brother-in-law Joe to
come to terms with the loss of his wife. The team maverick is Geoff,
who gets by (well, sort of) by busking and cadging the odd sleepover
from one or other of his teammates (usually Joe). We meet Geoff as
Viv lays into him for scoring a goal – against his own side,
Then there's Danny, who
fancies shy Luke, who lives in a village with his parents, works in a
library and is mortally afraid of even poking a toenail out of the
closet. Danny wants to make a career as a coach, but perhaps he's
picked the wrong team to further that ambition. As for the
possibility of a relationship with Luke – well, that remains to be
It's very well written,
and you can believe in these characters as real human-beings with
hopes and aspirations both credible and (at the same time) probably
unattainable. The performances match, with James Grieve's
production balancing the comic with the emotionally touching – the
scene where Danny almost wrecks his chances with Luke with an
ill-judged confession punctuated by kisses is moving and rings true.
There's a handsomely realistic set by Lucy Osborne which roots
these young people on the outskirts of Hull.
Jamie Samuel's Danny
and Philip Duguid-McQuillan's Luke hold centre stage, though Andy
Rush's Geoff is a woolly-hatted scene-stealer. Mat Sutton as Joe
has the least rewarding part but makes his sense of grief palpable
without ever seeming mawkish. Vivienne Gibbs' Viv is a forceful
personality as she tries every possible trick to motivate her team
out of their bottom-of-the-scoreboard position, including being prepared
to step down if that might work the miracle.
This co-production between Paine's Plough, Hull Truck and the Watford Palace Theatre scores a number of goals. Definitely not bottom of anyone's league.