OFFSIDE @ FARE AND UEFA CONFERENCES
On the day of the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup, Artistic Director Caroline Bryant, reflects on Futures Theatre's experience at the UEFA #EqualGame conference
Football, theatre and equality was the perfect inspiration for Offside and the perfect play to produce extracts from during two Wembley football conferences recently. Offside was created to celebrate the women pioneers in football and to throw a light on the current day game with its continuing gender imbalance and prejudices. Of course this is our micro story of the macro one reflected broadly within our society and the world of gender imbalance.
Being invited to perform excerpts from Offside at the Fare Network 20 year gala was an absolute delight. To be among international delegates representing many organistions with the goal of tackling discrimination and fighting for change felt a natural and celebratory home for us, at Futures Theatre and for this very special production. We collaborated with Millwall Lionesses and Man City women’s teams during our research, the show was co-written by Sabrina Mahfouz and Hollie McNish and now we were collaborating with those out in the field continuing to use football as both a political and social tool to bring justice. The evening was both a celebration of individuals and organisations championing change as well as an encouragement to continue the many battles still to be won and those that are frustratingly reappearing.
We learn from the historical players Emma Clarke and Lily Parr who within Offside inspire our current day players to achieve their best despite their era’s restrictions. Emma was the first known black player in the 1890’s and played in a team fighting for their political and social rights. Lily, lived through the banning of women’s football in the 1920’s and is still the only woman player in the Football Hall of Fame. We were invited to present theatre at these conferences that demonstrated the power for each of us to appreciate the previous generation’s generosity and battle successes and to build on them in our generation.
A couple of days later we were performing at the UEFA conference at Wembley stadium in a huge conference room with 250 delegates, media and translators. Among other challenges of presenting work in this type of venue was the fact that many of the delegates didn’t have English as their first language and this plays text has beautiful poetic language and it moves between eras with actors playing multiple roles. During rehearsals for both events we worked hard on slowing down the text delivery while retaining the rhythm and symbolic power of the language. With a number of strong character accents throughout we needed to retain the truthfulness of character for our actors and audience but lessen the strength of them for clarity, which of course during our tour rehearsals we’d worked consistently hard to get them just right! Our fab talented and up for anything cast and stage manager had all worked on the show previously, although not all on the same tour, and they brilliantly brought theatre into the heart of football. We performed in this beautiful Wembley stadium, a building that symbolises footballs commercial value, the vested interests and an unsurprisingly heavily male dominated landscape. But that of course makes it an even more amazing perfect audience to hear our message of inclusion, equality and that the time for change is now!
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TOURING 28 October - 29 november 2019
A new play by Flair May