Theatre of Dreams

Kelly Craig

Collaboration is king when it comes to performing on the pitch and on the stage. The similarities between football and theatre start with getting your team right but don’t end there. Picking the players, which of course was the word used to describe actors for many centuries, assigning roles, choosing the right person in managing or directing and of course, the vital ingredient, the audience.

In recent years we have seen much crossover between the stage and the pitch. Plays depicting the world of football have been treading the boards for quite some time now, and audiences are starting to draw parallels between both worlds on our stages and in our stadiums. A football-going audience is not often likened to a theatre-going audience, we tend to see a class gap between both, but as drama becomes more synonymous with football, tales of success, failure and the stories behind the people performing are drawing audiences into playhouses across the country in the same way that a team draws a crowd on a Saturday.

Dear England has been this year’s smash hit production in the West End, nominated for nine Oliviers and taking audiences by storm. James Graham’s depiction of Gareth Southgate overcoming a poor penalty track record and Ralph Fiennes portrayal of the England Manager are both perfectly executed.

Closer to home, Eilidh Loan’s debut, Moorcroft, was the National Theatre of Scotland’s runaway success of 2023. The trials and tragedies of an amateur football team was delivered via the protagonist’s real life stories of mid 80s kinship in working class Renfrewshire. An ensemble cast took the audience on a journey that was so relatable tackling mental health, illness, and togetherness, that the scores didn’t really matter. Rooting for each of the players on their personal journey did and this is by far and away the best piece of theatre that I’ve seen in a long time.

Rose, the story of Ayrshire’s very own Rose Reilly, arguably the greatest female footballer of her time, has graced our stages for a few years now and the film adaptation is currently in production. Lorna Martin’s poignant and inspiring story of the Stewarton teenager who refused to take no for an answer and tackled sexism head on to play for France then Italy, helping the team to win World Cup precursor Mundialito Femminile, is another theatre must see, depicting the enormous strength of character required to play on the pitch and on the stage too.

It might just be that the analogous thrill we take from the heroics of live performance cuts across both the arts and sport in a way that cross pollenates audiences and changes perspectives for those who would only consider going to one and not the other.