Odd Shaped Balls, Old Red Lion, theatre review: ‘Play tackles homophobia in rugby’

Matthew Marrs in Odd Shaped Balls

Matthew Marrs in Odd Shaped Balls - Credit: Archant

James plays rugby, the game he loves, and gets paid for it.

His club have just been promoted to the premier league and he’s one of the lads – good looking, popular, talented and loves the camaraderie.

His home life is settled: lovely girlfriend Clare and a supportive Mum and Dad.

What can go wrong? Well, everything, following a Twitter allegation from a spurned one night stand.

Juicy enough for the media to get their fangs into but made juicier yet by the fact that this lover is a man and the allegation is true.


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James is robustly and physically played by the terrifically talented Matthew Marrs (a Mountview graduate).

We watch his confidence turn to shame, anger, confusion then desolation as the rocks in his life (Clare and rugby) are washed away up by a prurient and homophobic media.

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In an inspired piece of writing, Marrs plays all the other characters in James’ life parents, captain, manager, media trainer, Clare, reporters, pundits and he does it brilliantly, moving seamlessly between them effortlessly changing accents and shifting mood from high humour to low despair.

The handbill blurb promises to “tackle issues surrounding homophobia in sport.”

To some extent that’s true but it is more of a well worn, nightmarish path that many sportsmen have gone through rather than examining the big question.

Many areas of public life are relaxed about gay men and women, but for some reason men’s sport still has a problem.

Stonewall FC was founded in 1991: why are there still so few “out” men in the Premier League, in Cricket and only a handful in Rugby Union?

An excellent piece of theatre, but if writer Richard D Sheridan had widened his scope this could have been a classic.

Odd Shaped Balls is at the Old Red Lion.

Rating: 3/5 stars

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