Offside celebrates the changing nature of women's football with an educational element (3 stars)

Offside celebrates the changing nature of women's football with an educational element

A solid foundation and moments of expressive flair from Futures Theatre

There is perhaps more virtue in Offside's tale then the telling: covering the history of women's football and the personal journeys of two fictional contemporary players in an hour becomes a tall order, especially when authors Sabrina Mahfouz and Hollie McNish use poetic monologues to both fill out the context and examine the stresses of the modern game. With two strong performances from Tanya-Loretta Dee and Jessica Butcher – and able support from Daphne Kouma in a variety of supporting roles, Offside hits the back of the net as often as it shoots wide.

Futures Theatre's intention – to expose attempts to stifle the success of the women's game – leads to a direct tackling of issues that, at times, has less the finesse of John Barnes than the clumsy clogging of Terry Butcher.

Following the fictional stories of two players, Mickey and Keeley, Offside evokes the spirit of women's football pioneers Lily Parr and Carrie Boustead. Lily and Carrie are the inspiration for Mickey and Keeley, as they battle for selection in the English national team. By telling the stories of the historical players, Mahfouz and McNish explore how contemporary pressures echo the conflicts of the past.

Consequently, Offside errs toward the educational over the theatrical. Dee and Butcher infuse their characters with passion, however, lending them the personalities that the script has skimped. The raw material overwhelms the production, but the vision of director and originator Caroline Bryant, to celebrate the rise of professional women's football has provoked a respectable introduction to the current state of play.

Traverse, Edinburgh, 30 March–1 April. Reviewed at the Clapham Omnibus, London.

Offside

  • Written by: Sabrina Mahfouz

A script-in-hand production about the history of women's football. With lyrical dialogue with chanting and punchy prose, the play examines the position of women in sport, on and off the pitch.

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