Gaffer! is a one-man black-comedy which sees Deka Walmsley deliver a convincing portrayal of a variety of comedy football characters and caricatures. The central character is George, manager of struggling Northbridge Town. George and Northbridge Town are old school. George has strong socialist values and sees the club as being the focal point of the community.
George prefers the hands-on approach to coaching, which invariably involves shouting at his
collection of journeymen veterans, promising youngsters and Carlos Kickaballs.
As George spends Saturday afternoons making nonsensical gestures from the touchlines, we enter the world of the football manager.
Gaffer! is most definitely a play of two halves. As Northbridge Town face up to the possibility of administration, the club receives a new owner in the shape of the suave Richard and an exciting FA Cup tie against footballing giants, Liverpool. As the first half of the play unfolds it seems to merely represent a frothy, albeit highly amusing, critique of modern day football.
Much of the comedy is derived from the way George compares the indulged modern day professional
footballer with his generation of players.
Every underdog must have its day though and Northbridge duly earn a draw and the
chance to replay at Anfield.
However, this isn't the only shock of the day for George.
As George staggers home after much celebration, the first half of the play ends with him being kissed passionately by one his own players. A kiss that is caught on camera by the paparazzi.
The second half is a much more serious proposition as the aftermath of the kiss in the context of
the macho world of football is explored.
Whilst football has made concerted efforts to tackle the issue of racism, homophobia is a
subject that professional clubs and the Football Association have neglected.
After all, even the most committed, knuckle dragging paid-up member of the BNP can't
deny the brilliance of, say, Thierry Henry. Race is a visible marker, homosexuality isn't.
If the reaction of the press, the public and his fellow football professionals to
George's homosexuality is anything to judge by, football has a very long and hard road to travel.
As the Northbridge chairman, a man ironically intent on dragging Northbridge Town
into the 21st century, points out to George when relieving him of his duties,
'it just won't do, it's like appointing Harold Shipman club physio.'
As George is cast into the wilderness, the production gains more depth and the laughs become more muted. As the replay at Anfield beckons, Northbridge Town are again in the headlines when their players are engulfed in a sex scandal with students from a local higher education college. The irony of these players being treated as heroes for their aggressive, yet heterosexual, behaviour in contrast to the reaction to George's consensual, yet homosexual, kiss does not go un-noted.
Deka Walmsley is excellent in this production as he meets the challenge of portraying multiple characters head-on. The skilful use of lighting, facial expressions, different accents and music sees characters as diverse as the traditional gaffer, the modern business man, the ageing groundsman and the youth team star, to name but a few come vividly to life.
Gaffer! is an amusing black-comedy that critiques the way that football is changing in the 21st century as well as taking a long, hard look at the way that the game certainly isn't changing. With an important message at its heart, Gaffer! is a thought provoking production for both football and non-football fans alike.
For tickets and more information on this excellent production contact:
Tickets are only £8.00 - £9.00 (£3.50 concessions) due to the financial involvement of the Football Association.
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