‘Right on target’: OFFSIDE – Touring

In Opinion, Plays, Regional theatre, Reviews, Touring by Laura KresslyLeave a Comment

Touring – reviewed at QPR Football Stadium
Guest reviewer: Meredith Jones Russell

Weaving together three centuries and four women’s stories, Offside tackles the ongoing search for equality in women’s football with high energy and verve. The research that has gone into the play gives it its heart. The stories of Emma Clarke, the first black professional female footballer in 1892, and Lily Parr of Dick Kerr Ladies who fought the FA ban on women’s football in 1921 are told in flashbacks, inspiring contemporary England hopefuls Mickey and Keeley to make history themselves.

The flashbacks are both moving and fascinating, and a couple of dodgy accents notwithstanding, beautifully performed. These are great stories and all the more powerful for how rarely they are told, which keep us on the edge of our dressing room bench seats.

Now on its second UK tour, the play is performed at a variety of football clubs, lending it an extra authenticity. Squeezed into the tiny dressing room of Queen’s Park Rangers’ home at Loftus Road, you can genuinely smell the sweat as the cast of three perform some incredible physical theatre, perfectly choreographed and controlled and seemingly impossibly avoiding assaulting any members of the audience despite the athletic kicks, flicks and training drills. Marième Diouf and Fizz Waller as Mickey and Keeley are utterly convincing as potential national team players, even without an actual ball.

The movement is superbly enhanced by writers Sabrina Mahfouz and Hollie McNish’s poetry, lending these moments a hypnotic effect that simulate the excitement and unpredictability of a football match the space could not otherwise provide.

Jessica Dennis, as a variety of supporting characters, shows spectacular versatility and comic timing, whilst flipping between almost all the accents of the UK seemingly effortlessly.

Offside is at its weakest in its modern sections, when the scenes can descend into  bit too much Eastenders-style shouting and the dialogue often loses authenticity. But as a whole, the play, with a hat trick of talented performers and a skilful script, is right on target.

Offside tours football grounds through 24 June.

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Laura Kressly
Laura is a US immigrant who has lived in the UK since 2004. Originally trained as an actor with a specialism in Shakespeare, she enjoyed many pre-recession years working as a performer, director and fringe theatre producer. When the going got too tough, she took a break to work in education as a support worker, then a secondary school drama teacher. To keep up with the theatrical world, she started reviewing for Everything Theatre and Remotegoat in 2013. In 2015, Laura started teaching part time in order to get back into theatre. She is now a freelance fringe theatre producer and runs her independent blog, theplaysthethinguk.com.
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Laura Kressly
Laura is a US immigrant who has lived in the UK since 2004. Originally trained as an actor with a specialism in Shakespeare, she enjoyed many pre-recession years working as a performer, director and fringe theatre producer. When the going got too tough, she took a break to work in education as a support worker, then a secondary school drama teacher. To keep up with the theatrical world, she started reviewing for Everything Theatre and Remotegoat in 2013. In 2015, Laura started teaching part time in order to get back into theatre. She is now a freelance fringe theatre producer and runs her independent blog, theplaysthethinguk.com.