Who are ya? Who are ya? Who are ya?
The premiership footballer: money; flash cars; nightclubs; mansions in the leafy suburbs; WAGs and mistresses.
The football fan: if he’s not chanting in the stands he is watching the match down ’pub with his mates, sinking a few lagers.
Clearly, these descriptions are clichéd, sweeping generalisations. But for many people, they may not be too far from the overriding image of football in the UK.
Conversely, homosexuality has for too long been a taboo within the football community: it’s a case of never the twain shall meet. As of 2012, there are no openly gay footballers in England’s top four divisions, and despite increasingly liberal attitudes, football continues to lag behind.
Gay footballers have been the subject of homophobic abuse, and coming out has resulted in tragedy. In 1990 Justin Fashanu revealed he was gay, and eight years later he committed suicide. The coroner at his inquest said that the prejudices he experienced may have been a factor in his death.
So in 2012 Director Martin Jameson and Writer and Actor Rob Ward came together to write a new play tackling the issue of homophobia in football. The result: Away from home, is a brave and confrontational piece of writing, which neither holds back in its emotion nor vision.
The play explores how a male prostitute falls in love with a secretly gay premiership player, and the happiness and heartbreak that ensue. The protagonist is Kyle, an escort from Liverpool who takes every Saturday off work to watch the match with his friends Jonno and McQueen. Jonno and McQueen both know Kyle is gay, but they’re cool with it. Kyle’s family, on the other hand, is less understanding. Sadly, Kyle’s father is particularly intolerant, at one point saying that he cannot be proud of his son because of who he is.
Kyle isn’t bothered by being an escort, because he can switch off. And it’s good money. But then he meets a new client – a rich, good-looking premiership footballer who plays for the opposing team. Slowly, Kyle begins to fall for him. But with the prejudice that surrounds homosexuality in football, Kyle is only going to get hurt.
In this one-man show, Rob Ward moves seamlessly from character to character. He is a phenomenal actor with the ability to morph accents, ages and personalities. With Martin Jameson’s Direction, Ward is moving, funny, and incredibly genuine. He has relentless energy.
The set is simple but effective, transforming from nightclub to bedroom, living room to bus stop through Ward and Jameson’s imagination, and the lighting and sound are excellent.
Following an award-winning run at the 24:7 Theatre Festival in Manchester last summer, Away From Home has reached London for a two and a half-week spell at the Jermyn Street Theatre. Produced by Hartshorn-Hook Productions and Working Progress Theatre, it is an eye-opening piece showcasing the quite brilliant talents of Rob Ward. It really sticks the boot into that pesky elephant in the room… or on the pitch.
Review by Emma Slater
Away From Home
Written by Rob Ward and Martin Jameson
Directed and Designed by Martin Jameson
Lighting by Louis Hartshorn
Jermyn Street Theatre
10th to 28th March 7pm
0207 287 8951
Friday 14th March 2014