Playing for a gay football team, you often get asked the same old questions, so when I heard that Above the Stag was putting on a musical on that very subject – He Shoots! He Scores! – I feared it was going to have more misplaced clichés than Leicester had misplaced passes in 2015/16, but like the erstwhile champions, the musical is a winner.
It was my first time at Above the Stag, and intimate isn’t the word – squeezed under a railway arch (with the occasional rumble of a train passing overhead), seating and performance areas are pretty restricted. As a result, legroom was pretty Southern Rail, but mercifully the show itself was like a singing and dancing version of Japan’s bullet trains.
I did fear the worst when changing room showers were mentioned early on, but fortunately it was just a case of addressing the elephant in the room and moving on to stuff that’s much more true to life – and I was pretty staggered at how accurate much of it was.
A hat tip must go to Callum Jewell (pictured), who plays for Titans with me and acted as a creative consultant to writer Jon Bradfield. One element that he influenced is the international flavour of the tournament – and it’s pretty important. Had the show been set in the UK, a few of the characters’ more carefree decisions may have appeared a stretch, but the rules of ‘what happens on tour, stays on tour’ makes the whole thing believable.
So believable, in fact, that I recognised elements of a lot of people I’ve met over the decade or so that I’ve been playing for gay football teams – from the divas to the party boys, those wrestling with relationships to those who are constantly on Grindr looking for their next twinky companion and everything in between.
There’s an awful lot to like about He Shoots! He Scores! – a script and songs that weave between funny and touching when appropriate, a stage design that works perfectly, and a talented and believable cast who are frequently in various stages of undress, which is no bad thing. Oh, and Above the Stag patron, TV legend and fellow Nottinghamian Su Pollard was in the audience and seemed to bloody love it – what more can you ask for?
He Shoots! He Scores! is on at Above the Stag until 20th August, but with many of the performances already being sold out – a testament to the quality of the performance and the size of the theatre – book soon to avoid disappointment.