SYDNEY may have played host to the 2014 Bingham Cup gay rugby world tournament this year, but at least Melbourne can live up to its reputation as Australia’s cultural centre as it hosts the Australian premiere of a gay and sports-themed theatrical production.

Jumpers for Goalposts had a successful run in London last year and was quickly picked up the Red Stitch Actors Theatre in Melbourne, with director Tom Healey at the helm.

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Written by English playwright Tom Wells, the play’s characters are a part of Barely Athletic, a five-a-side football team run by Viv, who was kicked out of the lesbian team the previous year for being too bossy.

“They’re the worst football team ever, they’re really, really crap,” Healey said.

“Viv pulls together a team with her brother-in-law and a couple of guys from the pub. One of those guys invites another guy from the library that he’s really in to, but it’s all very secret.

“None of them can play, but Viv is desperate to win, and the guys are only in it for getting a bit of sex, so there’s a lot of comedy around it.”

For Healey, the play is not so much about the issue of homophobia in sport, but about the wider idea about participation and a sense of belonging.

“It’s about a group of people who are really quite damaged for various reasons, not because of their sexualities, but because of things that have happened to them — deaths, losses and difficult life circumstances,” he said.

“Through the course of the play, they kind of have to work out how to be a little community, how they can support each other and love each other in various different kinds of ways.”

One of the first plays Healey directed was The Normal Heart in 1991, which was also one of the first AIDS-themed plays to premiere in Australia. For this reason, he is aware of the power of theatre in bringing queer themes to the mainstream.

“[The Normal Heart] was a big deal and was a very important play, and I love that, today, it’s moved into the mainstream,” Healey said.

“When walking down a street in Brunswick or St Kilda, very often I’ll see young gay couples who are holding hands and kissing: they’re completely out, unfazed and unfussed, and just feel a part of the wider world.

“I love how the community and world has moved on in that way in the last 25 years.”

Healey spoke of how he was drawn to Jumping for Goalpost’s “well-rounded and complicated” gay characters and Wells’ ability to write a funny and endearing script.

Wells’ past repertoire includes the critically-acclaimed 2011 play The Kitchen Sink, which delivered him the Most Promising Playwright prize from the Critics’ Circle Theatre Awards.

“[Wells] is very keen to write plays where gay characters are seen to be a part of the wider community and the world, a part of the wider conversation,” Healey said.

“[Jumping for Goalposts] a very queer play, as in it really invokes that notion of queer family — a lot of lesbians and gays have had to find a bit of community support, find a family inside the community to feel a bit safe, loved, to feel good and strong about ourselves.

“I think it celebrates a lot of stuff that most of us in the queer community hold very dear. And I also think it’s a great play for everybody to bring their straight friends to, it provides a great glimpse into the community.”

Jumpers for Goalposts is on at the Red Stitch Actors Theatre until December 20. Click here for details and bookings.

**This article was first published in the December edition of the Star Observer, which is available to read in digital flip-book format. To obtain a hard copy, click here to find out where you can grab one in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide, Canberra and select regional areas.

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