Same Team – A Street Soccer Story

Dec 13 2023 | By More

★★★★☆   Exhilarating

Traverse: Fri 8 – Sat 23 Dec 2023
Review by Hugh Simpson

Same Team – A Street Soccer Story, the Traverse’s December production, may be short on tinsel – but in its thought-provoking and frequently exuberant nature, it is peculiarly apposite for the season.

What looks like it could be downbeat (and certainly has its share of uncomfortable moments) is ultimately an invigorating and thoroughly impressive affair.

Written by Robbie Gordon and Jack Nurse, and created with the women of Dundee Change Centre, the play tells of a team selected to try and win the Homeless World Cup for Scotland.

Chloe-Ann Tylor, Kim Allan, Hiftu Quasem, Louise Ludgate and Hannah Jarrett Scott in Same Team. Pic: Tommy Ga-Ken Wan,

The story and the characters, while fictional, are drawn from the lived experiences of the Dundee Women’s Street Soccer team. Street Soccer is a programme that seeks to provide positive change through football for those affected by a range of issues. There is certainly a great deal of harsh reality in the play, but this is leavened by the power of human connection and by genuine joy.

Bethany aka ‘The B’ (Hannah Jarrett-Scott) has just got out of prison, while her old classmate Noor (Hiftu Quasem) is caring for a grandfather with Alzheimer’s. Lorraine (Luise Ludgate) has been ‘traded in for a younger model’ by her husband, Sammy (Kim Allan) is struggling to feed and house her children, while captain Jo (Chloe-Ann Tylor) is trying to keep the team – and herself – together.

knitted together

The dialogue is effective not only in its realism but also in its mix of pathos and comedy, with everything knitted together with real skill and no little sparkle.

Ludgate and the ever-impressive Jarrett-Scott provide the most overt humour, with Tylor’s character having perhaps the most emotional moments, but all of the cast turn in moving and magnetic performances, in one of those ensembles that is more than the sum of its (individually high-quality) parts.

Chloe-Ann Tylor, Kim Allan, Hiftu Quasem, Louise Ludgate, Hannah Jarrett Scott in Same Team. Pic: Tommy Ga-Ken Wan

This owes a great deal to the sympathetic direction of Bryony Shanahan, who also makes inspired use of Alisa Kalyanova’s sports-hall set. There is a physicality and energy to the play that makes this as good a representation of sport on a stage as I have ever come across, despite (or more likely because of) the fact that there is never a football to be seen. The interaction between the cast and the audience, that kicks off before the play has even started, is remarkably strong and even threatens to tip over into frenzy on occasion.

unusually witty lighting

What comes across brilliantly, as well as the relationships between the characters, is how football can give a structure to the lives of those involved in it on any level. Too often plays about football strive for some idea of ‘sport being like theatre’ that is unworkable and does justice to neither activity. This is that rare thing – a piece of theatre that works on its own terms while occasionally achieving the levels of identification and involvement sport brings to so many.

Kalyanova’s impressive design is matched by Lizzie Powell’s unusually witty lighting and Susan Bear’s sound design.

Kim Allan and Hannah Jarrett-Scott with Hiftu Quasem in Same Team. Pic: Tommy Ga-Ken Wan.

Distilling a variety of experiences into a small number of characters is going to run the risk of lapsing into formula – something that the script always manages to avoid. The characters’ backstories, and the various challenges they face, are integrated seamlessly into the whole.

Similarly, any story of sporting endeavour is going to dice with cliché whichever way it ends up. Once again, however, the commitment and sheer good-heartedness of the play overcomes this.

Perhaps there is an unavoidably repetitive element in the series of sporting encounters – for once, an interval might have been advisable to break things up.

However, there is no denying the visual and emotional impact of this production. While not directly Christmassy in any way, it has a message that is distinctly festive in that it is both chastening and heartening – and extremely timely.

Running time: One hour and 30 minutes (no interval)
Traverse Theatre, 10 Cambridge St, EH1 2ED
Friday 8 – Saturday 23 December 2023
Previews Fri 8/Sat 9: 7.30pm.
Tue – Sat (not Sat 23): 7.30pm;
Mats: Sats 16 & 23, Wed 20, Fri 22: 2.30pm.
Details and tickets: Book here.

Chloe-Ann Tylor, Kim Allan, Hiftu Quasem, Hannah Jarrett-Scott in Same Team. Pic: Tommy Ga-Ken Wan.


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