Sweet FA script published

March 12, 2022 | By More

A War Of Two Halves to follow

By Hugh Simpson

Sweet FA, the tale of a women’s football team in Edinburgh during the First World War which was a resounding hit at last year’s Fringe has now been published in book form.

Sweet FA was the second play from This Is My Story Productions and Nonsense Room to be staged at Tynecastle Park, home of Heart of Midlothian FC. It won wide acclaim from followers of all football teams (and none) for its combination of emotional appeal and political relevance.

Original cast members Heather Cochrane, Ria McLeod, Laura Harvey, Rachel Graham, Heather Horsman and Jodie Differ perform at Tynecastle. Pic Bruce Strachan

Publication by Perth-based Tippermuir books of Tim Barrow and Paul Beeson’s script – with dramaturgy from Bruce Strachan – coincided with International Women’s Day. It was celebrated at the Hearts museum with performances of some of the songs from the play by six of the original all-female cast, accompanied by short contextual introductions from director Strachan, publisher Paul S. Philippou and academic Dr Fiona Skillen.

This kind of play-with-music – performed in the Scottish community theatre tradition: ensemble-based and energetically consciousness-raising – does not always fare as well on the page as it does on the stage. Sweet FA, moreover, leant so heavily on references designed to appeal to its intended audience, both in terms of topicality and geography, that there was always a danger that it would look more of a curiosity in book form.

rhythms and energy

Interesting and heartening to report, therefore, that it has made the transition to book form with great success. The rhythms and energy of the dialogue fairly leap off the page, the more poignant elements of the story still have force, and the nefarious doings of the Shady FA continue to infuriate. Even the song lyrics, while necessarily lacking something, still communicate a large degree of intent and emotion.

Strachan’s foreword states that the play’s creators are ‘open to it being relocated to any city or town where it can work’ in performance. It is difficult to see how this could be done without extensive rewriting; this is not a criticism, indeed it is a reflection of how ingrained the piece and its concerns are in the community that gave rise to it.

Writers Tim Barrow and Paul Beeson with director Bruce Strachan.

Hearteningly, the publication by Tippermuir of This Is My Story’s earlier A War Of Two Halves – from the same writing team – is also imminent; there are also plans (funding permitting) for both productions to reappear later this year.

There has been much recent gnashing of teeth relating to football ‘losing its soul’. This is justifiably related to the way that clubs can be sold without hindrance to oligarchs or government agencies seeking to use them as an extension of foreign policy, or as a reaction to Sky TV’s insistence that football did not exist before 1992.

However – as Andi Thomas points out in a piece in the most recent edition of that excellent football quarterly The Blizzard – this quest for lost Edens has been going on as long as football itself. It comes largely from nostalgia, and a belief that football was always better in the speaker’s childhood.

research

There has been a recent wave of insistence that the 1970s represent some sort of lost football Golden Age, but a look at the constantly rerun episodes of the Big Match on ITV4 is as likely to remind you that it was an era of untrammelled racism, increasing hooliganism, and cynical on-field violence perpetrated on pitches more mud than grass.

Women’s football does not suffer from such rose-tinted looking back – partly because its history is one of struggle against ignorance, lack of cooperation and even outright proscription from the male football authorities, but also because its past is so woefully under-documented. Dr Skillen was at pains to point this out. Her recent receipt of a grant from FIFA to research the early history of women’s football in Scotland may finally go some way to remedying this.

Sweet F.A.

Sweet FA itself, of course, has been a help. Perhaps the fact that Hearts have an unusually high level of female representation in important roles meant that the play was always more likely to happen there. Lianne Parry, head of Hearts Heritage, spoke at the launch as did Ann Park, Director of Community and Partnerships, who is credited in the book as having a large part in the idea of the show in the first place.

And of course, the Chairwoman of the club remains Ann Budge, who was the driving force behind the club emerging from the near-terminal chaos of the Romanov years, and was also very much in evidence at the launch (as, indeed, was Club Ambassador Gary Locke).

With Hearts’ 150th anniversary coming up in 2024, it is to be hoped that This Is My Story Productions’ association with the club will continue for a while yet. In the meantime, the book of Sweet FA is something that should appeal to all football fans and theatregoers alike.

Listings and links

Sweet F.A. is published by Tippermuir price £9.99.
EAN: 9781913836146.
Available direct from Tippermuir at https://tippermuirbooks.co.uk/product/sweet-f-a/.
In person from the Hearts Clubstore at Tynecastle Park.
It can also be purchased for £9.29 from Æ’s Bookshop.org page: Here.

A War Of Two Halves can be pre-ordered at https://tippermuirbooks.co.uk/product/a-war-of-two-halves/

This Is My Story Productions website: https://www.thisismystoryproductions.co.uk.

ENDS

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  1. Rob Hands says:

    Thank you for your positive words on the publication of the plays by Tippermuir Books. We are a small independent publisher and work hard to support writing projects that might struggle to otherwise get into print.