THE ongoing issue of homophobia in sport and the coming out of high-profile athletes in the past few years has translated itself into various plays, films and TV shows that seek to explore the acceptance of sexuality, as well as the evolving nature of queer culture.

The Sheds, a short play from last year’s Melbourne Fringe about an Aussie rules athlete who comes out to the media and the his teammates, looked at the pressures of being thrust into the public spotlight. The widely publicised coming out stories of Aussie rules players Jason Ball and Rhys Anderson-Morley are perfect real-life examples of these pressures.

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Meanwhile, Jumpers for Goalposts is a beautifully moving romantic comedy by English playwright Tom Wells. It flips this format on its head by thrusting the audience into the locker room of Barely Athletic, a five-a-side team in the gay, lesbian and trans* football league in the city of Hull.

“Token straight” Joe (Paul Denny), still mourning the loss of his wife, is coerced into joining the team by sister-in-law Viv (Kate Cole), who had been kicked out of the lesbian team the previous year for being “too bossy”.

There’s also the care-free busker Beardy (Ray Chong Nee), who unashamedly flirts and sleeps with the gay men from rival teams; the charming Danny, who’s hiding a secret of his own from Luke, the nervous librarian and fifth member of the team who is still coming to terms with his sexuality.

The play runs just short of two hours without an intermission (which works well, as it’s somewhat hard to pinpoint a solid part to concise half-way mark) and is set entirely within Barely Athletic’s locker room as the team de-briefs after each match in the tournament.

Wells manages to craft a play that breaks away from the themes of homophobia and discrimination by instead choosing to focus the idea of participation, belonging and finding a queer family for love and support.

I recently spoke with director Tom Healey about what the play meant for him, and he said: “They [Barely Athletic] 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… it celebrates a lot of stuff that most of us in the queer community hold very dear.”

The deceptively simple nature of Jumpers for Goalposts manages to explore various themes with finesse and find the delicate balance between comedy and romance, with truly moving moments between the characters that will both break and warm your heart.

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

It will also have limited run during Midsumma, between January 19-25.

RELATED: Kicking goals on stage

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