Writer: Toms Wells
Director: Chris Lawson
Reviewer: Ruth Gerrard
Tom Wells’ hugely engaging Jumpers for Goalposts blasts its way into the Oldham Coliseum with flair and grace and a story that cannot fail to resonate.
The squad of Barely Athletic invite us in to the world of post-match team talks about football, love, loss, relationships, hopes and dreams and most importantly; friendship. Competing in the gay, lesbian and transsexual football league in Hull, East Yorkshire are: head coach Viv (Sally Carman); assistant coach Danny (Luke Bailey); Beardy Geoff and his ever-present hat (Adam Barlow); recently bereaved gas fitter Joe (Graeme Hawley) and shy librarian Luke (Will Mytum). In an attempt to win the cup, this unlikely quintet is united by friendship if not by sporting prowess. Along the way we learn more about each individual; their past, their present and their future wants and appreciate the bonds that tie us together as friends whatever our personal circumstances and backgrounds.
This is a really strong piece by Wells in that it is contemporary and relevant but feels realistic as well as poignant. There are no characters that are parodies of themselves, no over-egging or attempts to be outrageous simply for the sake of it. Full of great one-liners and a strong dialogue throughout; no opportunity to give the characters depth is wasted and the play moves at a good pace. You could easily meet these characters out in the real world which gives the piece the gravitas it needs.
Carman’s Viv is suitably driven and focused and is continually exasperated by the exploits of her team-mates which she perceives as a sign that they are not taking things seriously. Her tough exterior is portrayed well and her sensitive side shines through in Act Two. Barlow’s Geoff is heart-warming and played with the right amount of droll and a touch of pathos where relevant. He captures the complexity of this initially seeming flaky lad well. Hawley as Joe perfectly captures the feeling of sadness that one can feel following a bereavement. He is not outlandish or overtly excessively depressed but appears as a middle-aged man redefining himself following his loss. He is to be commended for this as it can all too often be tempting to overdo it when playing a character such as this. Mytum as Luke is the perfect mix of
Mytum as Luke is the perfect mix of bumbling introvert with a charming personality that shines through. Joining the team after seeing a poster in the library where he works, the opportunity to be part of a team for this inexperienced young man is something he relishes and does not let his lack of ability hold him back from embracing the chance to be a part of something. Bailey’s portrayal of Danny is touching and when he bares his soul to Luke it is truly an exhilarating impassioned scene. All have been expertly directly by Lawson to bring out the subtlety in each character. On occasion, some of the dialogue is delivered at a pace that can make it a little difficult to follow given that there is no amplification of the cast at this venue. Carman, in particular, delivers some great forceful monologues but they can be a little rushed and lose clarity at times. Bailey too could on occasion speak a little slower to maintain diction and ensure the poignant dialogue is delivered how it deserves to be.
The action all takes place in the local community sports changing room facilities and Anna Reid’s slightly grimy well used and much loved portrayal of such facilities is simple yet authentic and serves the production well.
For a genuinely funny and uplifting evening, you do not need to look much further than this. Laugh out loud and fall in love with these delightfully enigmatic people. An evening of pure pleasure that will resonate with the audience long after closing night.
Runs until 22 October 2016 | Image:Joel C Fildes