Crossing The Line

I went to see Fair Play at Bush Theatre.

Some other things that have been on recently or are forthcoming:

Masking is now strongly advised but the audience is not distanced, as the tickets were on sale before the latest restrictions came in.

In the main entrance area a screen shows a promo film for Fair Play and the next production Red Pitch. The Fair Play scenes have been recorded at a sports ground:

The performance is in the larger space of the Holloway Theatre, arranged in the round with 4 blocks of seating. The central set is a line-painted astroturf, resembling a sportsground, with 2 climbing frames arranged symmetrically so the overall layout appears the same from whichever side it is watched from.

The play is performed by 2 actors, always in running gear and always involved in lives together as young athletes. Sound effects of starting pistols, dance beats, and countdowns pace the scenes in which run on the spot or race around the stage, and a spotlight sometimes lights up the centre with a digital clock timer. The story they narrate takes us from their initial training ground out in to the world of international contests, press conferences, sponsorship deals, and a background chatter of family problems and varying relations with boys on and off the track. Sophie feels herself being slowly overtaken, so to speak, by Ann’s rising talent, but the latter’s career is cut short by a sudden decision made after a blood test.

In the final section there are a lot of argument about fairness in general and the specifics of “unfair advantage” (due to biology) in sport. I think a convincing line is sketched here that the very idea of competitive sport has an ineliminable element of priviliging some bodies over others. We contrive the categories that allow for “fair” competition in sport, and we can construct them a different way if we chose to.

Myself, I’m quite relaxed about the possible demise of competitive sport due to social justice movements or whatever, though I don’t think it’s very likely. It would have upset my Nan more since she liked watching “the athletics”, possibly due to her being good at running herself until she became ill in her early teens. She was also keen on watching “the snooker”, and I suppose it’s possible that biological differences allow some men unfair advantages when they’re inside the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield. I wonder if the Crucible Theatre has ever staged a production of The Crucible, another play about patriarchy. Anyway, here’s a display of old playscripts at Bush Theatre and I’m pleased to say I saw all but two of these productions in the past 5 years. Beat that, that’s my personal best.

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