Nell Bailey is the director of Pitch, a bold and joyful exploration of the relationship between football and the queer community.
Winner of the Pleasance’s Charlie Hartill Fund, it will dig under the surface of the world’s most popular sport to celebrate the connectivity it can bring while giving a voice to those who still have to hide their identity when in a stadium.
Football is a language spoken internationally but the relationship between football and the LQBTQIA+ community is complex and compelling – for some it’s euphoric, for some it’s dysphoric. In the wake of the Qatar World Cup, and when 30% of football fans admitted that they’d find two men kissing at a match uncomfortable, Pitch imagines a future in which queer representation in football is more than just a debate over a rainbow armband.
Drawing inspiration from dance, drag and lip sync and combining this with research and interviews, Pitch blends documentary storytelling and devised theatre to investigate what it means to watch, play and love the beautiful game.
Pitch is coming to Edinburgh Fringe, what can you tell us about the show?
PITCH is a show about football and the LGBTQIA+ community. In the wake of the Qatar World Cup and in the midst of the 2023 Women’s Tournament, Pitch blends documentary storytelling and theatre, investigating what it means to watch, play and love the beautiful game.
Made by interviewing hundred of queer players, teams, and fan across the UK, November Theatre (one of The Stage’s Top Picks of the Fringe, 2022) now imagines a future in which queer representation in football is more than just a debate over a rainbow armband. Expect a hat-trick of true stories, dirty tactics and dancing!
What was it about Tatenda’s writing that made you want to be part of this production?
Ellie (my co-creator) and I were always set on brining a writer onto the team. When we saw No ID at VAULT Festival, and again at the Royal Court, we knew Tatenda’s style was a great fit for PITCH. It’s been a wicked process working with both him and the cast – who have also written huge chunks of the show – to find the human, funny, ridiculous bits of this play. It’s true collaboration.
The show is winner of the Pleasance’s Charlie Hartill Fund, how does that feel and what opportunities has it given you?
It’s amazing! This is November Theatre’s second UK show, and to have it supported by Pleasance feels like incredible growth. Going from independent production last year to a co-production is a radical change. For one, the poster looks AMAZING (big up Alice Gorman on the Pleasance Design team for making our dream marketing).
The team have also been incredibly supportive as we scale up as a company, offering advice and mentorship throughout. And now we’re at the Fringe, as a Charlie show… Well that’s a seriously unique place to be in. We hope it’ll help gather great audiences, and spread the message of this piece. We just want to bring the show to as many people as possible.
Why do you think the relationship between football and the LQBTQIA+ community makes such compelling theatre?
Both cultures are centred around community, right? Mutual celebration and commiseration. Yet they’re not always two cultures that get to mix. That conflict – two spaces that know how to do big joy, big chants, big love – is endlessly interesting to watch and explore. Great theatre sucks us in, makes us feel part of the experience, and delivers stories in which we can see ourselves. PITCH does this by making us part of the crowd, and getting us to think about where we stand.
What are you looking forward to most about working with the cast?
This cast are exceptional, no lie. Every day in the rehearsal room with them is fantastic. I don’t think I’ve ever laughed as much as when we R&D-ed the show back in May. They are wildly inventive, endlessly silly, and also an incredibly talented bunch of actors and writers (hire them). The stories we tell in PITCH are inspired by the interviews we’ve conducted with queer folk around the UK, but they’re also pieces of the actors. I can’t wait to help them find, and own, these narratives during rehearsal, and to bring them to world in Edinburgh.
What would you say to anyone thinking of booking to see Pitch?
This is not just a show for football fans! It’s a show for people looking for inventive, fun physical theatre. It’s show for people looking for a laugh. It’s a show for people who want to see community on stage. It’s a show for everyone.