Review By Louisa Polson
Jumpers for Goalposts opened at Newtown’s NewTheatre on Wednesday the 8th of February as part of Sydney’s World Pride Amplified program. This run is the Sydney premiere for the British play, ‘Jumpers for Goalposts’ written by playwright Tom Well. This queer romantic comedy follows five members of a local lgbtq+ community soccer league, vying for their chance to score the comp trophy, despite their less than apt ability to score. Their team ironically named, ‘Barely Athletic’. The five-a-side teammates are played by Isaac Broadbent (‘Danny’), Nick Curnow (‘Joe’), Emma Louise (‘Viv’), Sam Martin (‘Luke’) and Jared Stephenson (‘Beardy Geoff’). The actors beautifully fulfill the playwright’s goal of showcasing a varied team dynamic under the genre of a sports-based play, with a balance of more offensive extroverted personalities teamed with the defensive introspective type. The narrative of the play follows this mixed bunch of players into the locker room post-match allowing the audience a glimpse into how the team grow together and deal with individual and shared experiences throughout the season.
The play doesn’t rely on any fancy stagecraft or gimmicks to keep the audience entertained, leaving the actors to rely fully on themselves. As a result, all the actors have created these beautifully quick-witted and full characters that open up to the audience throughout the two halves of the play. A standout of this play was seeing how Curnow (Joe) brought the audience along for his characters understated emotional journey. This arc slowly unravelled, trusting the audience enough to not be too forthright, permitting the nuisance of his performance to carry the message across.
The themes of comradery, essential in any story relating to team sports, allowed for the actors to develop a comical bond between one another. The complexity of each character was best highlighted by all of the actor’s ability to hold strong and varied relationships between each team member, a demonstration of meticulous preparation and hard work, which has paid off.
Normally I wouldn’t be too impressed to spend two hours in an arguably rundown local locker room. However, set designer Tom Bannerman is to be commended for his stunning work in designing a complete replica of this space with clear accuracy and functional detail. Having just enough setting for the characters to believably exist in their world, the space existed beyond the physical delineation, allowing the audience to witness the continuation of the characters world as the actors entered and exited into these created spaces.
The direction of the play opted to stick with the original UK setting, which saw all actors present an English accent with the assistance of Benjamin Purser, the dialect coach for the production. All the actors seemed to lean into this element, never dropping out of their accents but instead seeming to enjoy this element of their character, making it all the more engaging to witness. The various creative elements blended seamlessly together to mimic the setting of the Northern English town of Hull. This was impressive as many independent plays in Australia tend to forgo this route in favour for adapting international plays into an Australian setting for ease of familiarity. This choice paid off for the creative team who took the chance to challenge themselves. I was really taken by this aspect of the play because it seamlessly pulled together so many subtle elements to replicate a very British feel, the sense that you get from watching a witty UK drama on television. In particular I felt that the costuming, script, and music were the subtle drivers of this energy.
This play is a heartfelt and comedic in all the right ways, elevated by a talented combination of creatives (both cast and crew). ‘Jumpers for Goalposts’ is playing at Newtown’s, NewTheatre until Saturday March 4th.
Image Credit: Bob Seary