I’m back with Odd Shaped Balls…

I have been blog-silent for a few weeks. Not sure why, but it has been a month of supporting the development of the Mosaic 2016 festival of 10 new plays which open June 10th; recruiting for next year’s producers’ course; coaching and re-promoting my work as a creative business life coach with a workshop in Newcastle for producers this Saturday, and a ½ day workshop with fellow coach Nicky Raby on 5th July. Busy time.

Last night I made my first visit for many years to the Old Red Lion Theatre by Angel Tube to see the first preview of “Odd Shaped Balls” by Richard D Sheridan, transferred by Plane Paper Theatre from their original Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2015 success.   With new staging, and a much fuller set, it is ready for a further life and I hope many other theatres and managements will take a trip to see the production playing till 25th June.

The one-man play centres on the “outing” by the press of a young, rising-star rugby player. We are witness to the challenges that he faces with his team, his fans, his girlfriend and his family. The image and marketing rightly shine a spotlight on the challenges of homophobia in sport. Director Andrew Twyman is very well served by multiple-character acting from Matthew Marrs. A powerful performance, deeply moving at times, and exploring the world so fully.

But for me the play does that extra thing – it takes a very specific subject, and elevates it to have universal themes and journeys which will touch the minds and hearts of a very wide audience. Almost all of us have felt that we are outsiders at some point. Many of us have experience of balancing our private lives, attractions and passions with our public world of employment and expected roles.   Too many people experience levels of bullying and challenge for the person they want to be, rather than the person they are expected to be.   I am no rugby player or sportsman. I don’t have locker room experience. But the themes transcend that setting and touched me deeply.

This 60 minute packed piece of theatre is for anyone coming through puberty, for anyone expected to be a part of a team – at school or work , for anyone who has a relationship which is at times complex, for anyone who has a parent they find a challenge to explain their world, and for anyone in a position of public/private challenge – where they want to be seen as themselves.  A piece of “necessary theatre”.

I hope Plane Paper Theatre, now Associate Artists with Live Theatre Newcastle, will be able to give this production a further life. I look forward to seeing how producer Ellie Claughton and director Andrew Twyman develop their new writing company.

Grab a ticket, check out the reviews after press night tomorrow, and enjoy the Old Red Lion Pub – especially the excellent free range pies, and the organic vegetarian options. Oh and the beer is good too.

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