Review: Jumpers For Goalposts (New Theatre)

Venue: New Theatre (Newtown NSW), Feb 7 – Mar 4, 2023
Playwright: Tom Wells
Director: Alice Livingstone
Cast: Isaac Broadbent, Nick Curnow, Emma Louise, Sam Martin, Jared Stephenson
Images by Bob Seary

Theatre review
Somewhere in the North of England, a tiny amateur league of five-a-side footballers compete, in teams comprised mainly of members from the local queer population. Tom Wells’ Jumpers for Goalposts is, more than anything else, about community. Its characters are not without their serious sides, but there is a distinct lack of gravity in the play, and although resolutely comedic, it is arguable if much of it is funny at all.

Director Alice Livingstone is fortunately adept at providing for her staging, ample doses of energy, for a production that feels consistently buoyant. Even though the laughs may not be plentiful, the show manages to hold our focus, for all of its two-hour duration. We may not really find ourselves ever caring too much about the five characters in Jumpers for Goalposts but the performers are certainly strong enough, with an unmistakeable earnestness that sustains us throughout the piece.

Emma Louise takes on the role of coach Viv, and like the indefatigable lesbian sporting leader, Louise’s determination to keep her players unified and spirited, forms the lynchpin of these proceedings. Her brother-in-law Joe is inhabited by Nick Curnow, who brings much needed emotional nuance, to a show that could easily be presented without any attempt at subtlety. Jared Stephenson’s exuberance and vigour as the bohemian Beardy, delivers oodles of charm, for a personality as amusing as he is amiable. Isaac Broadbent and Sam Martin tell a story of puppy love, as Danny and Luke respectively, with an admirable conviction that affords an air of dignity to their young lives.

Set design by Tom Bannerman is extraordinarily well constructed, and highly believable as a well-worn changing room, if slightly constricting with the space being demarcated for physical action. The warmth of Mehran Mortezaei’s lights are effective at helping persuade and remind us, of the humanity on display. Bella Rose Saltearn’s costumes are rigorously considered, finished with a level of detail that never fails to impress.

For many queer people, sport represents a realm of persecution and terror. It is for many of us, one of the earliest indications of not really belonging. The many exclusionary constructs pertaining to things like acceptable identities and permissible behaviour, rear their ugly heads most emphatically, in these traditionally patriarchal arenas. We can proceed then, to radically reject these pervasive dominions, through forms of counter-culture that we can assert as being equally valid, or we can attempt to reclaim conventional spaces, trying to convert denial into acceptance. There are many ways for progression to take place, and we do not have to make everything the same.