Same Team: Scotland’s new play following the dream of homeless female footballers bidding for World Up glory
Rather than providing Christmas cheer, the venue hopes audiences will instead be cheering on a fictional band of Scottish footballers – as they bid to bring a Homeless World Cup back home.
Its forthcoming production about an all-women team experiencing the highs and lows of the beautiful game after bonding together on and off the pitch has been created with the help of a real-life project which was created to use football as a way to help turn the lives of homeless people around.
The show, Same Team, has been in planning and development for around six years since Linda Crooks, the Traverse’s executive producer, met David Duke, the founder of Street Soccer Scotland, which works with men and women who have experienced homelessness, addiction, mental health problems, loneliness and isolation.
An official charity partner of the Scottish Football Association, it runs programmes in Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh and Glasgow for around 1000 participants each year with the aim of “using the power of football to inspire people to change their lives for the better.”
It was set up by Duke in 2009 after the life-changing experience of playing for Scotland in the Homeless World Cup.
He was living rough in Glasgow when he spotted an advert for the tournament in Sweden.
Written by Robbie Gordon and Jack Nurse, the new play, which is set in modern-day Scotland, will be the final production staged at the Traverse during its 60th anniversary year.
The show, which will run until 23 December, will be premiered months after the charity played host to an international women’s tournament in Ayrshire.
Partly inspired by Scotland’s two past victories in the Homeless World Cup tournament, Same Team focuses on five women in Dundee who set out to try to take the title in Milan.
Gordon, who worked with Nurse on a previous play about Scottish soldiers who had fought in the Spanish civil war, said: “It was a brilliant experience when we met David.
“He is a really inspirational guy who has a pretty incredible story about founding Street Soccer after going to the Homeless World Cup as a player. He has been the whole organisation from the ground up.
“He has just given us the okay to do the play when the pandemic happened.
“We started working with Street Soccer when they were really still in recovery mode from the pandemic, as was theatre.
"There were similar things we could do for each other and help each other. A lot of the issues that are in the play were further intensified by the pandemic.”
The new play, which will be launched on Friday, has seen the cast and creative team make regular visits to Change Centre Dundee, a sports complex which was taken over by Street Soccer Scotland two years ago.
Gordon said: “It was the first time they had a permanent base and somewhere to really call their own. We were there at the start of their journey there as an organisation.
“All the players really mucked it and helped with the refurbishment.
“It’s a fantastic building which is used all the time. It’s a place with a great community spirit. People go there for football but are helped in a real variety of ways, through housing, mental health and addiction support, and the NHS workers come in.
“It was really important to us that we worked with the players, as opposed to us going in there and imposing a theatrical process on them.
“We asked them what they wanted it to be and they were really keen to work on storytelling and writing.
“We delivered skills-based workshops for the players, which really enabled us to gather the material for the play.
“Over the course of the last year, we’ve created all the characters and the story from the ground-up. All the characters are based on real lived experiences, but they are distanced enough for them to be protected as players and individuals.
“What’s been really great is that we’ve been invited to play with everyone we’ve been working with at the Change Centre every week, so we've all had a good runaround.”
Duke, who has attended read-throughs of the play, said: “You can really see how each of the different characters has had different journeys and experiences to get to Street Soccer. They are really brought to life.
“The play is emotional and inspiring, but it is really funny as well. Although the characters have obviously experienced really difficult times and different challenges, the camaraderie between the players really comes out.
“With we look at things like people who are struggling with homelessness, addiction and criminal justice, a lot of people tend to see them at that moment at their lowest ebb.
"They can make preconceived judgements, but they don’t know the backstory of that person. There’s normally a lot of trauma or difficult experiences behind them.
"We all need to be part of something. If you are experiencing societal or social challenges like homelessness it can be very isolating and lonely. As human beings, we’re always in a better place when we’re surrounded by people. Football creates a platform to be somewhere, to have structure and to find belonging.”
Bryony Shanahan, director of Same Team, said: “I’ve seen first-hand how both can create community, a sense of belonging and improve physical and mental health, as well as provide a brilliantly entertaining event for fans and audiences alike.
“Seeing these two things come together is a dream and working with the women of Street Soccer, alongside Jack and Robbie, we hope to combine the best elements of football and theatre to make something exhilarating, hilarious and with bags of heart.”
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