A hilarious and heart-warming comedy about football, friendship and finding your way, this February, New Theatre presents the Sydney premiere of Jumpers For Goalposts by Tom Wells, as part of Sydney WorldPride 2023.
Barely Athletic are a bottom-of-the-ladder queer five-a-side soccer team in a local LGBTQI+ amateur league in Hull, England. Publican Viv, the player-coach, was thrown out of Lesbian Rovers for being too bossy.
Her brother-in-law Joe, the team’s token straight guy, is seriously unfit – and grieving the recent death of his wife. Beardy Geoff, a gay busker with dreams of Hull Pride stardom, has a weakness for sex with opposing players.
And shy library assistant Luke only joined because he’s got a crush on sports science student Danny, who’s struggling with issues of his own.
Though on-field success is what they’re after, it’s how these five very different personalities support each other off the field that lies at the heart of this unsentimental, utterly charming, feel-good story.
Presented as part of the Pride Amplified program, Jumpers For Goalposts will be directed by Alice Livingstone, whose previous Mardi Gras productions for New Theatre and elsewhere include Bent, Blowing Whistles, Mother Clap’s Molly House, Privates on Parade, The Little Dog Laughed and My Night With Reg), with a creative team including Tom Bannerman (set design), Mehran Mortezaei (lighting design) and Bella Rose Saltearn (costume design).
The cast of five comprises Nick Curnow (Take Me Out, My Night With Reg), Emma Louise (Canary, The Women), Sam Martin (The Other End of the Afternoon), and New Theatre debutantes Jared Stephenson (recently relocated from Perth) and Isaac Broadbent (The Wind in the Willows).
“This play has been on the New’s radar for a number of years, but the rights have always proved elusive,” said Alice. “Last year, Artistic Director Louise Fischer made another application to secure them – and voila! Success.”
“I was very excited when I heard the news, as I’ve had a desire to direct this play since first reading it. What particularly appeals to me is it’s humanity, how lovely the characters are, and how easy it is to relate to their situation. Plus, it’s very, very funny!” said Alice.
Playwright Tom Wells, in an interview with an American journalist in 2015, gave a beautiful insight into the essence of the play:
“My experience of being gay has been that everyone’s a bit messy and you’re just friends, and for me that was the thing that made me feel a sense of belonging, the first group of gay and lesbian friends that I had that felt like you were part of this community…” he said.
“Being let into a world and feeling a sense of togetherness is actually a massive strength of the gay community, but it isn’t always realized or there’s a risk that it’s taken for granted and not appreciated.”
“I feel like the majority of my life has not been dealing with huge epic problems but dealing with small things that you kind of worry around and navigate, often unspoken. But to you, inside, they mean a lot, you attach significance to them.”
“So I think that feels – hopefully that feels truthful when people are watching it. It feels like there’s a thing that they can recognize about themselves even if it’s not exactly the same story,” said Wells.
Jumpers for Goalposts continues New Theatre’s commitment to presenting stories that speak to the LGBTQI+ community during the annual Mardi Gras festival (this year, combined with Sydney WorldPride), a tradition that started with The Boys in the Band in 1994.
Director: Alice Livingstone | Featuring: Isaac Broadbent, Nick Curnow, Emma Louise, Sam Martin, Jared Stephenson | Set Designer: Tom Bannerman | Lighting Designer: Mehran Mortezaei | Costume Designer: Bella Rose Saltearn | Dialect Coach: Benjamin Purser | Soccer Coach: Geoff Sirmai | Production Managers: Gemma Greer, Alice Livingstone | Stage Manager: Jo Jewitt
Jumpers For Goalposts
New Theatre, 542 King Street, Newtown
Season: 8 February – 4 March 2023 (preview: 7 February)
Information and Bookings: www.newtheatre.org.au
Image: Rainbow Football – photo by © Jacob Lund / Shutterstock / Christina Hatzis