sat 20/07/2024

Same Team, Traverse Theatre Edinburgh review - shamelessly unseasonal Christmas cheer | reviews, news & interviews

Same Team, Traverse Theatre Edinburgh review - shamelessly unseasonal Christmas cheer

Same Team, Traverse Theatre Edinburgh review - shamelessly unseasonal Christmas cheer

Grit, authenticity and raucous comedy in a five-woman soccer show

(l-r) Kim Allan, Hiftu Quasem, Louise Ludgate, Hannah Jarrett-Scott and Chloe-Ann Tylor: community in the face of adversityTommy Ga-Ken Wan

You can keep your Cinderellas, your Aladdins, your wannabe Lord Mayors of London. The way forward with Christmas shows is clearly women’s football – more specifically, a Scottish five-a-side team that competes in the Homeless World Cup.

You’ve got to hand it to Edinburgh’s Traverse Theatre for the sheer audacity of presenting such a shamelessly un-Christmassy show as its… er… Christmas show. In fact, there’s plenty about Same Team – its sometimes distressing details of abuse, neglect and deprivation, for example, but also its gloriously rich lexicon of profanities – that makes is decidedly unsuitable for the very young. That said, there were plenty of enthusiastic teens the night I went. But for all that, Same Team’s feeling of warmth, compassion and understanding in the face of adversity makes it an ideal – if, okay, somewhat unusual – show for Christmas.

And it tells a neat and naturally theatrical story, too, with a first half covering selection of the five-strong squad and intensive training, and the all-important second half relocating us to Milan for the competition itself. Throughout, however, the histories of the five women involved are gently revealed. Like middle-aged, middle-class Lorraine, left homeless and rudderless when her long-term partner trades her in for a younger model. Or youngster Noor, caring alone for her ailing grandfather. Or captain Jo, drilling team values into this disparate rabble, but fighting demons of her own. It’s to writers Robbie Gordon and Jack Nurse’s immense credit that they’ve woven together the football storyline and backstory exposition so sensitively, but also so persuasively.

What’s even more impressive, though, is the fact that they’ve based their show on real-life stories, embedding themselves within Street Soccer Scotland’s Change Centre in Dundee, and working closely with its players to tell their tales. Same Team isn’t a verbatim show, exactly, though the fact that the plot is clearly based around real women’s lives brings an added sense of urgency and poignancy to the production.

Same TeamAnd it’s really quite a show, bristling with as much edge-of-your-seat energy as a live football match: it’s no wonder that when the audience is goaded to get involved, it happily obliges. Chloe-Anne Tylor commands the stage as a swaggering Jo, yet captures a sense of needy vulnerability too. Hiftu Quasem heartbreakingly brings out Noor’s faltering hope and optimism, while Kim Allan is worry personified as mother-of-two, barely-getting-by Sammy, and Louise Ludgate combines haughty and humble as bewildered Lorraine. Special mention, though, to Hannah Jarrett-Scott (pictured above, standing above Kim Allan), who prowls around as feral, volatile and snort-inducingly funny The B (Bethany to her mates), recently released from inside, and simmering with fury and hurt, as well as some killer one-liners.

At getting on for an interval-less two hours, the show nonetheless whizzes by under Bryony Shanahan’s swift, fluent direction, which shines a piercing light on moments of particular poignancy, and even manages to make five-person football commentary – with microphones, movement and more – as vivid as a real-life match, without a ball ever making it onto the stage. Special mention, too, to Lizzie Powell’s powerful lighting design, which, with its banks of LEDs on three sides of the action, almost becomes a character in itself.

Same Team is a timely seasonal reminder of the traumas and challenges happening all around us, but also a celebration of fellowship, resilience and determination. Most of all, though, of hope. And in those terms, despite its unusual subject matter, it feels just right for a Christmas offering. But don’t be surprised if it crops up again well away from the festive season.

It’s quite a show, bristling with as much edge-of-your-seat energy as a live football match


Editor Rating: 
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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Please make amendments as Neshla Caplan is not pictured above or in the show. It is Kim Allan now playing the part

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