Jumpers for Goalposts by Tom Wells, charts the progress of a five aside team in an LGBT+ amateur football league. Each scene in the play takes place in the changing room after their games, charting their generally disastrous performances on the field along with their personal developments. While primarily a comedy, there are moments of significant pathos as the play discusses the physical assault of one character over his sexuality and portrays another living with HIV.
The set was very simple, using two benches and a table around the space and a locker cabinet behind to portray the changing room. This was not particularly attractive, but perfectly suitable for the needs of the script, and while the cast was only five strong, the space never felt empty or unused. Luke Simboli, in particular, bounded around the stage, jumping from bench to bench, at one point carrying a guitar, and often squatting rather than sitting on the benches, seemingly always ready to jump into action. The tech was also very simple, with the only lighting changes being blackouts during scene changes. These were covered with appropriate music but could have been a little slicker, which would have contributed to the professionalism of the production.
The acting was strong across the board, with particular highlights being the scenes between Toby Poole as reluctant team coach Danny, and Chris Overmeer as library worker Luke. Poole gave an excellent performance, making the audience laugh from the moment the lights went up with his exaggerated stretches and capturing the comic potential of his awkward attempts to ask out Luke, but also the devastation of Luke’s rejection when he reveals he has HIV. Overmeer’s discomfort within the group, shyness around Danny, and final heartfelt declaration of love were also excellently portrayed. The chemistry between the two was excellent, and their relationship was believable and fulfilled its comic and emotional potential; there were audible cringes from the audience as they bumblingly tried to ask each other out and outbursts of “aw” when they finally kissed. The use of HIV as a go-to source of conflict for a gay character was perhaps a little cliché, but is refreshingly portrayed as an obstacle for Danny, but not something that by any means ruins his life or defines him; and the production found a good balance in letting the emotion of this plotline hit without overplaying it.
At some points, the play felt slightly under-rehearsed, as queues were picked up slowly and several actors felt a little unsure at points. This wasn’t a huge problem, but made the production feel a little less slick, and detracted from the comic timing. There was also a plot point surrounding domineering Head Coach Viv and “Token Straight” Joe which wasn’t made entirely clear; it seemed that both had some trauma in their past surrounding the same person, which was referenced too many times to forget but never fully explained. It is not clear if this was a flaw with the production of the script, but did leave the audience rather confused over a seemingly important plot point.
Overall, Jumpers for Goalposts was a greatly enjoyable production. A good script, combined with simple staging and some excellent performances made for a laugh-out-loud comedy with engaging characters and some genuinely emotional moments. A little more confidence in lines and slicker scene changes would just have made for a sharper performance.