Sam Freeman

Storytelling | Theatre | Arts Marketing

“Gaffer” – 9/10 Liverpool Sound & Vision

Life’s a pitch for a good manager, in the testosterone filled world of football, there is the hard work but also the banter, the great times of winning a trophy or two, of the desperate times in which a club can come so close to extinction that it threatens a whole community, it can destabilise it to the point where it may never recover. A club’s fortunes doesn’t just depend on what happens on the pitch, with the supporters or indeed with the person who bank rolls it all, it depends on the everyday making headway and for supposed social stigma’s to be recognised as just life. There is no wrong in being different; if you can do the job then you are good enough, no matter who you are.

Chris Chibnall has come a long way since originally writing Gaffer, in some ways he has gone into overdrive and has become one of Britain’s favourite writers with credits such as Broadchurch, Doctor Who and Torchwood to his ever growing illustrious list. Yet Gaffer should arguably be the one piece of writing that gets the most attention, that makes people sit up and listen and to take note; have attitudes changed because it does seem utterly ridiculous that well into the 21st Century football, the very beautiful game, is cheapened because of its refusal to acknowledge its own double standards when it comes to Homosexuality.

To witness Simon Hedger’s impressive performance as George, the manager at the centre of supposed controversy, to see him capture every other single character in this excellently paced monologue, is to sit back and believe in the power of the theatre, to understand that things and opinions can be changed if you get the right people’s attentions. With superb directing by Sam Freeman, Simon Hedger’s acting talent was pushed to its wonderful conclusion and showed just how important the relationship between actor and director is when it is just person on the stage.

It may take time, and football might not have the time if it refuses to bend and keep believing an outdated mode of thought, but if it saves just one more footballer suffering the cruelty heaped upon the very talented Justin Fashanu, the viciousness and almost brutal hatred he was shown when he declared he was gay, if it saves one more player fearing for his career and ultimately taking his own life then football and its supporters will be the richer for it.

Gaffer reaches into the artistry and theatre of the football world and exposes a murky side in attitude that is still is far too prevalent today, change happens but does true acceptance ever really reach the terraces and the testosterone filled life of a footballer.

As young football fans might say, Gaffer is boss!

1st July 2014 | Written by Ian Hall | Original Article