Balls the Play Flat Football

a short history of balls!

The stage play was originally commissioned by the Football Arts Initiative (FAI), a collective of football supporters, artists and community activists formed in 1989 as a creative response to the Hillsborough disaster.

Written during February and March 1993, Balls! premiered at Kirkdale Community Centre, Liverpool in May of that year before embarking on a short tour of Northern England.

Reviews were unanimously positive. Rooted in place and culture but with an emotional resonance beyond its geographical location, the show was described by one critic as ‘somewhere between Waiting For Godot and quite literally waiting for God’. The show toured again in 1994 which included a series of dates in Secondary Schools in the North West region. The schools performances were edited for language and included a pre-show workshop.

In the summer of 1996, Balls! was featured during the opening celebrations for the EUFA European Football Championships (Euro 96) at the Royal Festival Hall on the South Bank in London. This was followed by a short tour of Northern England. In October, the British Council supported a week’s residency at the Player’s Theatre, Trinity College Dublin, as part of the city’s Fringe Festival.
Balls Poster
Original artwork for the premiere and first tour – 1993
Early in 2000, the Company were invited to tour the show across Scandinavia prior to the European Championships (driven by Liverpool FC’s exploding Nordic fan base) but appropriate funding was not forthcoming and the trip failed to materialise. Around the same time, the BBC expressed an interest in developing the show as a one-off television drama. Although several meetings took place, no agreement was reached and this project was also shelved.
Balls! Poster
Artwork for the Bluecoat Liverpool show – 1996
In 2004, a series of workshops were held in schools and colleges across Merseyside focussing on team building and self-esteem. Using scenes from the show with forum theatre techniques, the sessions explored some of the issues raised by Balls! and provided an opportunity for participants to consider courses of action which could be applicable to their everyday lives.

Although there was every intention to continuing touring the production, for the next fifteen years the show would remain on the bench and mothballed.

On 10 November 2019, Liverpool beat Manchester City to open up an eight point lead at the top of the Premier League. On the way home from the game, Keith and Jamie discuss the possibility of the shows’ return should Liverpool take the title.

A first draft of Balls! Rebooted was completed before the end of the year, Michael Livesley was added to the squad and dates were pencilled in for a midsummer launch to be followed by an Autumn Tour. In January 2020 the first read-throughs took place and dates were finalised to open in Liverpool in June.

In February and March, with the onset of coronavirus, the production of Balls! was suspended indefinitely.

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