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Rob Ward on Away From Home

Tue 17 Feb 2015 In: Performance View at Wayback View at NDHA

Actor and co-writer Rob Ward fills us in on Away From Home, Auckland Pride Festival’s award-winning UK theatre import which tells the story of an escort who falls in love with a premiership footballer. It’s a one-man show, which was co-written by Ward and Martin Jameson, who has written for Casualty, Emmerdale and Holby City. Ward plays the multiple roles in the play, while Jameson directs the work.   Rob Ward tells us more: What it’s like being a gay football fan? And how did this inspire the play? Well it's just like being a football fan who happens to occasionally fancy one of the players you're either cheering or booing. It doesn't occur to me too often anymore that I'm particularly different as I don't define my identity purely on the basis of my sexuality or my love of sport. They're facets of it but not the overriding factor. However, the play undoubtedly comes from my struggle earlier in my life in matching my love of football and love of men. It seemed both worlds - the football world and the gay community - were intolerant of each other and for a while I felt very confused as to who I was. It was difficult hearing homophobic abuse at games and seeing nothing being done - and still today, nothing other than lip service and chit chat is offered to fighting homophobia in football. The play was initially an angry response to that, one that became more measured as I developed it with Martin. How did the partnership with your co-writer come about? Martin directed my company (Working Progress Theatre) in our first production in 2012. It was called 'Loaded' by JoJo Kirtley (who runs the company with me). Martin was bonkers so naturally we got on. I was an actor in 'Loaded' but later I told him about my love of writing, something I hadn't properly done in a while due to lack of confidence. I wanted to write something about homophobia in football - Martin had the way in through a story he had heard from the 70s about a rent boy and a well-known footballer. Martin had been unable to write this story knowing as much about football as Margaret Thatcher knew about compassion. However, when we met it all fell nicely into place. How many different characters do you play? I play nine different characters overall - straight and gay, male and female. It's a blast for me and hopefully you'll enjoy it too. If not, I'll buy you a drink afterwards and pretend you did :) How challenging is it to do a one-man show? Rob Ward When Martin first suggested it I thought it was a terrible joke. I said "very good Martin but April Fool's day isn't for another six months". I hadn't done so much as a convincing monologue before. But I have absolutely loved the challenge and Martin's direction through the rehearsal process has been second to none. It's almost as if he's a professional! The challenge, as with all performances, is keeping it live, keeping it in the moment. Luckily I have a new audience to play off and play with (not in that way!) every night so for me it always feels fresh and new and exciting. Is it harder, or easier, to act in something you co-wrote? Easier in terms of learning lines it harder in terms of the double pressure. If you give a bad performance in a poorly written play then there's pretty much no saving grace for you! Is being a gay professional sportsman one of our last barriers? Apparently so. As depressing and banal and ridiculous and laughable as that is, it really appears to be the case. Obviously in certain sports - diving, showjumping, a lot of women's sport - there doesn't appear to be the same stigma. But in most male professional sports, with the antiquated notions of masculinity tied in with an aggressive alpha male complex - where anything 'different' is targeted as a possible weakness and in a sport that has money constantly being pumped into from countries with homophobic, often heavily religious, mindsets...there is a huge battle still for openness and understanding. Are we breaking it down? I think the world of British football can work a hell of a lot harder. It needs help and support from organisations that work closet with lgbt citizens. Sadly, petty politics between lots of gay groups including organisations such as Stonewall, with their insistence on monopolising the gay rights movement, means some people are shouting loudly, some are not shouting loudly enough and ultimately nothing is getting done. Homophobia, like all forms of prejudice, comes from ignorance and can only be tackled by education. This needs to start from grass roots - this needs to start from basic scholastic education. However, with the prevalence of faith schools, for as long as people are brought up believing it's fine to discriminate against others based on sexuality - because their religion OKs it - then we have real problems still. Society can't move forward and football, often labouring at the back of any race to modernisation - will continue to float through the dark ages. We’re a sports-mad nation in NZ – do you think the play with translate well here? I think if you get sport - regardless of what sport that is - if you understand the passion and the rivalry then you'll get 'Away From Home' just fine. Even if you hate sport come along. The play really is open to all and I am not just feeding you a salesman's pitch when you get that. If you really can't get into it when you come and see it, come find me in the bar afterwards and I'll buy you a drink! What do you hope people take from it? A copy of the script will be on sale after the show very reasonably priced, I'm kidding! I hope it stirs a reaction in people. I'd rather have half the audience hate it and half the audience love it than have a room full of people indifferent to it and likely to forget it within a week. I hope there are layers to unwrap within it and not necessarily immediately obvious ones either. If there are, and people perhaps can't give a finite assessment straight away, then I think me and Martin have done our jobs well. Food for serious thought - that's all us writers can ever hope to be. Oh, and you'll hopefully laugh! It's a piece of entertainment after all. You can't relentlessly batter an audience emotionally with this kind of material without having lighter strokes throughout the night. Away From Home Tuesday 17- Wednesday 18 February 6.30pm Thursday 19 - Saturday 21 February 8pm Matinee Saturday 21 February 2pm Herald Theatre, Aotea Centre, 50 Mayoral Drive Tonight appears to be sold out, and tickets for tomorrow night's show are close to it Tickets here (A panel discussion on ‘Stigma around Homosexuality in Sport’ will be held after the Wednesday 18 February show). Jacqui Stanford - 17th February 2015    

Credit: Jacqui Stanford

First published: Tuesday, 17th February 2015 - 8:46am

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