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Offside

Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh
Three stars

For too long now, football has been perceived to be just a boy's game. This wasn't always the case, as this dynamic little play co-written by Sabrina Mahfouz and Hollie McNish makes clear. It opens in the boot room, where wannabe women's team players Mickey and Keeley are preparing to try out for the national squad. Both are determined to make the grade for very different but equally personal reasons. Both too have their distractions, but they also have their heroines guiding them on.

These come in the form of Carrie Boustead and Lily Parr. Back in 1881, Boustead was a Scottish woman of colour who kept goal for several teams. Flash forward to 1921, and Parr is a star player scoring goals in front of thousands. Both were pioneers, but with the outlawing of female football, they've been airbrushed out of history. As Caroline Bryant's production for the women-centred Futures Theatre flips between time-zones, Mickey and Keeley are gradually empowered enough to go for whatever goals are put in their way, be it a misogynist press, peer group pressure or bigger things besides.

With both of the play's writers from a performance poetry background, there's a sinewy physicality pulsing Mahfouz and McNish's words over the play's rapid-fire sixty-five minutes duration. These see Tanya-Loretta Dee as Mickey and Carrie, and Jessica Butcher as Keeley and Lily, move between interior monologues and heightened on-field exchanges. With Daphne Kouma multi-tasking like crazy as various commentators and coaches, the end result is part history lesson, part celebration of how far things have come. It also points to the work that still needs to be done by truly independent women, whatever the century.

The Herald, April 3rd 2017

ends

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