The offside rule remains a mystery to many. It can be explained time and again but if your brain isn’t wired to its singular logic, a mystery it remains. The equally mysterious illogic of misogyny in so many areas of life is seen through the prism of women’s football in Offside. Like players walking up the narrow tunnel before a match and seeing the giant pitch expand before their eyes, Offside looks at the big picture of feminism while sporting a football strip.
Mickey (Tanya-Loretta Dee) and Keeley (Jessica Butcher) are two young professional women footballers whose teams are about to face each other in the Super League final. Beyond the dream of winning the league lies the bigger dream of being spotted by coaches to play for their country, England, during the match.
Across the play, the actors step out of their contemporary characters and play the parts of their heroes (or ‘Heroine. However, you wanna say it’). For Mickey, a black British player, hers is Carrie Bousted, a black Scottish Suffragette who belonged to the rational dress movement and who played a landmark game of football at Edinburgh’s Easter Road in 1881. For Keeley, it is Lily Parr who played football in a factory team in Lancashire during WW1 that raised more money for soldiers back from the war ‘…than the bloody government…or the FA…’
These roles are played with tremendous balletic physicality by Dee and Butcher as they impressively switch accents to reveal bits of relevant history. Alongside, Daphne Kouma does a first-class job of morphing into her array of characters.
The poetic skills of Offside writers Sabrina Mahfouz and Hollie McNish shine throughout the piece letting it rise above the mere didactic by making its rhythms and repetitions a joy to listen to as they tell the difference between ‘weedy’ and ‘speedy’ women. The text becomes more prosaic and the play’s initial impact loses pace somewhat in at the training camp scene when a mire of personal issues of Mickey’s love for team mate Ruby that even in 21st century can’t speak its name in some sections of society and Keeley’s fear of her Mum’s mental health issues being used against her begin to unfold. It picks up again for its inspiring finale with its insistent musical and poetic beat and projected images of women footballers.
Futures Theatre’s raison d’être is to ‘…create work that puts women at the centre…’ and in Offside they have truly achieved their goal (sorry!) with this well researched piece. They have produced a hard hitting and powerful piece of theatre with strong messages about the power of personal liberation of being able to forget worldly cares and ‘...sign the green with your name…’
Result? Feminism 10, Misogyny 0!
30 March – 01 April at 8pm