We caught up with Bryony Shanahan, director of Same Team - A Street Soccer Story, as she answers our 10 questions and gives us a glimpse of her vision ahead of this vital new play taking to the Traverse 1 stage this December.
Q1 – What drew you to working on Same Team - A Street Soccer Story?
So many things! Firstly, I love the Traverse Theatre and I love Edinburgh. I’ve been lucky enough to make a couple of shows with the Traverse and bring touring shows here too… Bitch Boxer, Chapel Street, Enough and Bloody Elle. It’s a bit of a beacon for new work and has been such a fundamental theatre in my career so I’m delighted to be coming back.
The project itself is a bit of a dream gig for me. I’m a huge football fan and the fact that I won’t have to shoehorn in footy metaphors or warm-ups is a real win! Also, the way it’s been made with the women from Street Soccer is fantastic. I love working with different communities and this is a properly thought out, meaningful collaboration which is really exciting. And the play itself is brilliant. It’s full of energy, is laugh out loud funny, and has some proper gut punch moments. All of my favourite things!
Q2 – Tell us a bit about Same Team - A Street Soccer Story.
Same Team - A Street Soccer Story follows a group of five women in Dundee who are all part of Street Soccer. Their engagement with the organisation began in various ways: a recent divorce leading to homelessness, addiction issues, financial issues and more. They all are successful at the trials to represent Scotland at the Nations Cup in Italy and so the journey begins. Along the way, we learn about what has brought them to this moment, their histories, their aspirations and vulnerabilities. And it’s a hilarious journey through training to arriving in Milan.
There’s banter, fall-outs, solidarity, surprises and lots of football. It’s been developed with the real women at Street Soccer in Dundee and so the voices are authentic and fresh. I think audiences will care because there’s so many jumping off points of relatability, it’s rooted in real stories and it’s as funny as it is moving.
Q3 – Are you a football fan yourself; who’s your team?
Yes I’m a huge football fan. I was inducted into the life long job of being a Stoke City fan when I went to my first match aged 6 years old. I believe it was a 0-2 home defeat to Oldham Athletic, but I was hooked. I went to most home matches until I left home at 18 and some of my best memories have been in a red and white shirt shivering in the wind and rain. I also played a lot when I was younger and played for Stoke City Ladies for two seasons, which was a really brilliant experience. And I’ve recently started playing again with a team in Manchester, where I live, partly inspired by this project, and I’m absolutely loving it! When I’m home, I’ll also often go and see Manchester United Women play, which is a real pleasure to watch, and I’m so delighted with how far women’s football has come. I also genuinely think my mastermind subject would be football team nicknames and stadiums from 1995-2005!
Q4 - How do you see football and theatre working together?
Anyone who knows me really well will know that this is something I bang on about a lot! Football and Theatre have so much in common - a live performance with a gathered audience, a game plan but with the spontaneous element that can always surprise you, individual performances but you need an entire team for it to work… I could go on.
There’s also a lot they could learn from each other. Football doesn’t struggle as much with feeling out of reach or elitist - fans and players alike are from a huge spread of identities and communities. Theatre, frustratingly, still has a perception of being “posh” and I always try to work really hard to introduce new people who then discover that of course it’s for them. However, theatre definitely does better in terms of LGTBQIA+ representation - I still find it staggering how few openly gay players there are in the national leagues, particularly in the mens teams, which is really sad.
But essentially, I think both theatre and football have so much to offer people at all sorts of levels. Being part of a team for me as a young person really helped develop my social skills, my understanding of collaboration etc and it’s the same for being involved in a Youth Theatre. It’s not just about going professional in either - in fact it’s probably more important for these opportunities to exist for these more social reasons. And both can be exhilarating to watch! To be fair both can be frustrating at times too!
Q5 – How are we going to feel after having seen Same Team?
I hope energised, moved, informed and also with a slightly achey feeling in your stomach from laughing a lot!
Q6 – You’ve already had a bit of time working with the team, tell us about the development so far and what’s to come next.
We had a week of development in September which was so useful. It gave us the opportunity to go through the play in huge detail and make some adjustments and edits. Some of them came from specifically who are playing the parts, some of it story arch and some it fun things we found in the room! We also played a lot with the theatrical language of how to stage the football matches. It’s really hard to play football on stage, as I always just want to see the ball absolutely booted which is tricky when you have audiences and expensive lighting fixtures and speakers! But also, I wanted to find something that wasn’t so literal, because we can always just go and see a footy match if we want to see that.
Lastly, we went up to Dundee and trained with the women at Street Soccer as well as reading them the play, which was such a fantastic experience. The next part of the process was working with the designer Alisa, as well as the rest of the creative team and the team at The Traverse, to come up with the design, which I’m really excited about. Now we’re about to head into our rehearsal process so it’s all steam ahead!
Q7 - What was it like meeting some of the real women of Street Soccer?
Incredible. They were so generous in letting us train and play with them - and they are really, really good! There were a few sore legs and achy muscles for us after... It was great to see where the play is set too, which informs so much from the design to the world we create with the cast. In the afternoon we read the play to them which was obviously pretty nerve-racking as they have inputted so much into the script and we wanted to make sure it felt authentic to them and that they, and the programme, were represented as they wanted.
Thankfully, they absolutely loved it - they laughed, they nodded in recognition and were really moved. It felt like it gave us permission to go into rehearsals and really go for it, knowing we’re doing them proud. Honestly, it was genuinely one of the best days at work I’ve ever had!
Q8 – How are you going to turn the Traverse into a Football Stadium?
Well, you’ll have to come and see for yourselves! But it’s about trying to integrate as many elements as possible that are recognisable in a stadium… the lights, the sound, the feel!
Q9 – What are some of your favourite football anthems? (playlist)
I should say a Stoke one really, but they are a bit questionable if admittedly catchy! Risky saying this as I live in Manchester, but Liverpool’s "You’ll Never Walk Alone" gets me every single time. Something about seeing all of The Kop singing at the top of their voices always brings tears to my eyes. Also, Leeds’ “Marching on Together” is a bit of a banger, although I can’t say I’m massively fond of them! And lastly, I’ve been feeling guilty about not mentioning Stoke, so let’s go for “We’ll be with you.”
Q10 – Who in the cast/creative team do you think would be most likely to make it as a footballer?
Well, Hannah Jarrett-Scott is definitely a bit of a wizard… and regularly plays. Our sound designer Susan Bear got a lovely goal in Dundee too! But I reckon there’s some dark horses in there, so all will be revealed in rehearsals I’m sure!