Five people gather in a changing room to play in a four-team Sunday football league. It is one so lowly that jumpers are used for goalposts, and at the start the group is divided between those determined to win, those less worried about taking it seriously, and those totally disinclined to turn up for week two at all.
But as, over the course of six matches, the team has its fair share of successes and failures, each player is forced to confront their own ghosts and wounds to such a point that final victory can hardly be measured by success on the football pitch itself.
Jumpers for Goalposts, the new play from Tom Wells of The Kitchen Sink fame, is an intelligent affair. On the face of it, the needs of coach Viv (the only girl), who craves victory following her sacking from rival team Lesbian Rovers, are far removed from those of Joe who has deteriorated since his wife’s death, or of homosexual Danny who is too afraid to ask out, or tell the truth to, the naïve Luke. When, however, this disparate group of people are forced to work together to achieve the same objective goal, they learn there is more to the world than their own problems, and help each other to confront their respective demons.
Some of the twists seem a little contrived, and the ending feels too neat, but Wells clearly knows how to write turning events into the plot to keep us interested and emotionally engaged throughout. He also ensures that we are genuinely kept guessing as to the outcome of the tournament itself. Every time last place seems guaranteed, something happens to suggest that overall victory is still a possibility.
The cast is strong with Vivienne Gibbs as Viv and Matt Sutton as Joe standing out in particular. At the moments of greatest revelation the acting sometimes feels too overblown to be convincing, but, in spite of this, Jumpers for Goalposts remains tender, thoughtful and highly entertaining throughout.
Until 4 January 2014 at the Bush Theatre, 7 Uxbridge Road, London, W12 8LJ with start times of 2.30pm and 7.30pm. Tickets (£10.00-19.50): 020 8743 5050 or visit the Bush Theatre website. Londonist received a complimentary ticket from Kate Morley PR.