A good couple of weeks for Hull, the improbably isolated but newly crowned UK City of Culture, culminates in the city’s hottest young playwright Tom Wells breezing into London with this marvellously idiosyncratic comedy.
‘Jumpers for Goalposts’ is a bittersweet but very funny romcom about Barely Athletic, an inept five-aside footie team playing in Hull’s surprisingly competitive amateur gay league. The fact that it hinges on a tremendously awkward romance between two men – Jamie Samuel’s socially inept Danny and Philip Duguid-McQuillan’s even more socially inept Luke – underscores the team’s shared sense of outsiderdom and sets up something of a mid-play plot twist. But for the most part sexuality is refreshingly irrelevant in a comedy that’s as much a loving tribute to the great tradition of British amateurism as anything else.
Each scene in James Grieve’s proudly no frills production is set in Barely Athletic’s dressing room, post-match. As such, the team’s home lives are only ever hinted at: we’re never quite sure why hypercompetitive captain Viv (a brilliantly blunt Vivienne Gibbs) seems to be so frustrated; or exactly what happened to the late wife of the team’s sad sack straight player, Joe (a soulful, subtle Matt Sutton); and why cheeky layabout Beardy Geoff (Andy Rush) only alludes to a preposterously busy sex life.
What binds them together isn’t love of the game, or even – the tyrannical Viv aside – any particular interest in winning. They’re bound by what we see: the sense of community that a team fosters, and Wells’s play is really about what a precious thing that is – precious enough to keep this bunch of bickering misfits competing in this silly league. It’s a heartwarming message, delivered with fine acting, tart humour and judicious northern understatement.
By Andrzej Lukowski
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Saw the matinee on the 21st. Laughed (a lot) and cried (a little). Very we'll acted an received by the full house. The Hull accent was just right! A feel good afternoon akin to beautiful thing . I think I shall be seeing it again before it ends on the 4th. Hope to see it in the west end one day !
A superb piece of theatre. One of the most beautiful love stories I have ever seen on stage. This show deserves a transfer Tom Wells has written an incredible script and James Grieve has done an outstanding job of interpreting it. If you loved Beautiful Thing you will adore this.