Director Will Howells introduces the story of Hull five-a-side footie team Barely Athletic, a comedy drama which opens on Tuesday 14 January, “kicking off” 2020 at SLT.
What was it about Jumpers that appealed to you as a director?
The play came on my radar through a chance meeting at a Belle & Sebastian gig. My friend bumped into someone he knew called Tom and introduced me. Afterwards he told me it was Tom Wells, the author of Jumpers for Goalposts, and that if I didn’t know the play I should look it up. I bought a copy of the script and was immediately struck by its warmth and humour. When I was thinking about directing, it came straight to mind. As a first-time director, I also appreciated working on a play with one set, limited technical requirements and a small cast!
Tell us about the themes of the play and the characters we’ll meet.
The play is a really strong ensemble piece: there are five characters who make up a team in the Hull Gay & Lesbian Five-A-Side Football League, and they’re all equally important to the story. One of the big themes is about facing up to your fears and going for it, whether that’s on a football pitch, in a career or in a relationship. Conflict is always a big part of drama and in this play a lot of that conflict is internalised. Luke and Danny have to overcome their own issues if they want to have a relationship; Geoff’s trying to find his place in the world; and Viv and Joe are dealing with a bereavement in different ways. And the script handles that all with a light touch.
Do you need to be a football fan to appreciate the play?
Not at all – you can be as bad at football as our characters are! My extent of football fandom is getting the World Cup sticker albums. For research, I did have a single game of five-a-side football while I was on holiday last year. The main thing I learned from that was that it’s much more exhausting than you expect.
What do you hope the audience will take away from this show?
I hope they’ll have a good laugh and enjoy rooting for our characters – and, in the spirit of New Year, maybe think about what they’ve been putting off and go for it too!
Jumpers for Goalposts runs Tuesday 14 – Saturday 18 January at the Old Fire Station.Buy tickets here
Rehearsal images by Will Howells