Rugby player, James Hall, has the world at his feet. Yet despite, a steady girlfriend and a promising career, his life is about to be turned upside down. Odd Shaped Balls is a funny and poignant one-man show, which tackles issues of homophobia & sexuality in sport and the pressures of intrusive media attention. With his life crumbling around him, does James have the courage not only to be true to himself, but also to be a role model for others?
‘As exciting, engaging and entertaining as fringe theatre gets’ Gay Times
‘Matthew Marrs is perfectly cast as James, encapsulating the energy and angst of the young man battling to cope as his private life becomes public.’ The Stage
Odd Shaped Balls began for me almost four years ago, inspired by an incident I witnessed whilst playing for the university rugby team. An openly gay fresher signed up and he trained with us, came on socials and felt like part of the team. But a few months in, his captain and the club president cornered him on a night out and told him not to bother coming back. The captain was quickly removed from his position and we moved on as a team, but nothing was done to reach out to our new teammate and he never came back. It wasn’t until I met up with him a couple of months later that I learnt how much it had affected him. He felt feel unwelcome, not just in a team, but in a sport and in a culture. A sport and a culture that I loved because of how accepted it had always made me feel.
After some research in to the likes of Welsh rugby hero of Union and League, Gareth Thomas, a screenplay titled Odd Shaped Balls was penned. On the 2nd of December 2013, the same day Tom Daley uploaded his viral video, I made the decision to take Odd Shaped Balls to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Here it received five star reviews and shortlisted for multiple awards. The response we got was overwhelming and we regularly had audience members wait to meet us after the show. Some were fans of the game would praise the depiction of the pressures 2 in professional sport, but some gay audience members would talk, about how they related to the inner turmoil, the abuse and the struggle for acceptance that comes with being out; comments from their family or friends or even strangers were echoed in the language of the play and there was a societal idea of manliness that they were made to feel excluded from.
We followed Edinburgh with a return to Camden and additional shows in Colchester, Brighton and Lambeth, but the show always felt unfinished and there was more of Jimmy Hall’s story to tell. Having the opportunity to revisit that world with Plane Paper Theatre and rework the play with the knowledge that it will have life again is really exciting and something I am grateful for.
Writer, Richard Sheridan (London 2015)
Plane Paper Theatre has been working with original writer, Richard Sheridan, to re-devise and refine this critically acclaimed script. The production aims to raise awareness of homophobia in spot as explained by Director, Andrew Twyman:
I came across Odd Shaped Balls after working on a previous project with writer, Richard Sheridan. It was not only the fantastic writing that drew me in but the nature of what Richard was trying to achieve. Odd Shaped Balls doesn’t just confront homophobia in sport, it stands up and shouts, lays bare every nuance of locker-room culture. Its a culture that today is still painfully present in our society and one that doesn’t seem to be going anywhere in a hurry. I believe we have a responsibility to engage and challenge our audiences, to ask and explore those questions that people shy away from. Odd Shaped Balls gives us the opportunity to challenge an aspect of our culture that is fundamentally wrong. Odd Shaped Balls embodies what, as a company, Plane Paper Theatre wants to achieve.
Odd Shaped Balls is in association with Newcastle University Alumni Association and Northern Pride
Director: Andrew Twyman
Writer: Richard D. Sheridan
Producer: Ellie Claughton
Assistant Producer: Will Hunter
Production Designer: Luke W. Robson
Starring: Matthew Marrs