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Q&A: Off The Rock Productions

3rd June 2017

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Back with a fresh piece of new writing, Off The Rock’s Director Alison Young, and Assistant Director Mike Hickman, talk to us about their latest production featuring the beautiful game and some inspirational women.

O&O: Tell us a bit about ‘Not A Game For Girls.’

Alison Young: Based on the true life events of an Edwardian women’s football team, ‘Not A Game For Girls’ is an inspiring tale of women flourishing against the odds.

Mike Hickman: An inspiring story of women "stepping in and stepping up" to do as well, if not better than, the men away at war - it doesn’t pull any punches in showing how difficult this was for them, including when the men returned.

O&O: What inspired you to produce this script?

AY: I love a challenge! You have to start with a good story and this certainly captured my heart and imagination; I had never even heard of "Dick, Kerr’s football team" previously. I loved that this was a play with relatable, fully-rounded characters including strong female roles. The writer Ben Peel was admittedly ambitious in his writing of the script; and wanted to incorporate music, choral singing and projected images. I was excited to get my hands dirty and see how I could implement all of these elements to bring the heart of the story to life. I strongly believe there is something to appeal to everyone in this play.

O&O: How relevant is the play and its messages today?

AY: More startlingly relevant than I wish it was. There are still huge gender inequalities in pay, societal expectations and double standards. Feminism still seems to be frowned upon as a dirty word. It’s interesting looking at the modern day gap between the respect that professional male footballers are afforded and the level of respect that professional female footballers are shown. I’d say we still have a long way to go. The play also explores mental health and the after effects of war that certainly weren’t openly spoken about at the time but are still stigmatised and swept under the rug today.

MH: When misogyny is rife on the internet, when presidential candidates can openly talk about sexist behaviour and even be applauded for it, and when there is still limited equality in most professions, this play with its message that women can do anything men can is possibly more relevant than ever.

O&O: What challenges, if any, have you faced in directing a play centred upon the physical game of football?

AY: The biggest challenge as a Director was choosing how to convey the atmosphere of a football match without breaching Health and Safety measures and putting the audience in the precarious position of having balls flying at them! On our very first rehearsal the girls were put through their paces in a training session and we very much draw on their football skills in the play. This team can genuinely play and we certainly drew on some of their previous knowledge of the game. Without giving too much away my aim was to create exciting, believable and atmospheric games that would draw the audience into feeling like part of the stadium crowd and I believe we’ve done that quite successfully. You’ll have to come to see how we’ve done it and judge for yourself!

O&O: Has ‘Off The Rock’ moved into new territory with ‘Not A Game For Girls’?

AY: I think we’ve certainly evolved as a company and this has been the most challenging production to date. It’s a period piece; and it incorporates physical theatre, singing, dancing and multi-media. It’s ambitious! The heart of Off the Rock’s mission is to promote exciting new writing and that remains; but it’s important to keep our approach fresh and try new things. Watch this space!

O&O: Describe the play in five words.

AY: Inspiring, dynamic, thought-provoking, empowering and refreshing.

MH: Five???? I can’t describe anything in five words!!!! Hmmmmmmmmmm…. Women’s struggle to be equal.

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