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Jumpers For Goalposts – Farnworth Little Theatre

Set in the dressing room of Barely Athletic amateur football club, this barely athletic five a side team comprises of 5 different characters, each bringing their own nuances and idiosyncrasies which results in comedy, poignancy and very few goals!

Each character in this play is clearly defined. A pub landlady, sacked from managing rival team, the lesbian rovers, as she is too bossy, an out of condition “token straight” bereaved widower battling a range of issues, a shy and naive librarian, and an energetic young player who, whilst hiding a secret realises that he has feelings for one of the team. Throw in a partygoing, hat wearing wanna-be pop star and there you have the perfect five a side team.

Natalie Crompton plays a foul mouthed, no holds barred Viv with great force. She doesn’t mince her words, believing this is the way to motivate the team. A cracking performance that never faltered as she sustained the dogmatic football coach persona throughout, as well as showing a softer side as she offers concern about her bereaved brother-in-law.

Martin Pearce is the afore mentioned brother-in-law, Joe. He doesn’t really know why he is there, but he is, and although he has to be prompted to kick the ball, and, oh yes, have a shower, it appears no one else knows why he is there too. Martin’s dead-pan approach was just right, and we all sensed he couldn’t be bothered with the football but felt for him as he was obviously grieving.

“Beardy” Geoff, the hat wearing one, is brought to life by Dean Lane, who really immerses himself in this role. Humorous, confident, and musically talented, Dean gave this party-going character a certain amount mischievousness making him so likeable.

Matthew Gavin was superb as Luke, the shy librarian who has only turned up because he fancies the lad who came into the library to display a poster bout the football team. The shyness came across well and led to some laugh out loud moments, especially as he pushed the door to exit rather than pull.

Completing the cast, Nick Eccles excels as Danny, the poster bearing library visitor. So watchable as he portrays this role with believability. Keen to impress his tutor as she assesses his role in the game, he seems keener to impress Luke, as he makes a pass which is reciprocated. This was played with care and consideration. Nick’s ability to deliver text with sensitivity, resulting in him revealing his HIV status to Luke was a delight, and for me was a highlight of the production.

Director Jason Crompton has really displayed his expertise with this play. Such attention to detail, not only in delivery of the text, but also the changes of football kit, all carried out on stage, with the required amount of deodorant spraying and sock changing, making it look realistic. This detail came across very well.

This comedy has funny lines, but it was never played for laughs, which was the right way to approach it. Along with the comedy were moments of real poignancy. The revelation of Danny’s HIV status, dealing with bereavement and the realisation of sexuality.

This play hits all the right notes and gives so much food for thought.

Paul Cohen