Nutty For Footy – New Play Keepy Uppy
Phil Hopkins, Travel & Arts Correspondent
As football fever prepares to sweep the nation this June with the beginning of the FIFA World Cup in Russia, Canadian-British playwright, Evan Placey’s new ‘family’ play, Keepy Uppy, begins its national tour at the Howard Assembly Rooms in Leeds.
It’s being staged by Tutti Frutti Productions and tells the story of football loving Joey and his mum as they get ready for the Cup Final with his team.
Tutti Frutti has worked with Placey before including on the acclaimed play WiLD which not only explored the life of a boy living with ADHD, but was subsequently selected for the 39th IPAY International Showcase held in Madison, Wisconsin.
Ahead of its Leeds opening on Saturday May 5th, the Yorkshire Times caught up with Evan for a chat about his new play Keepy Uppy:
How did you get involved in writing Keepy Uppy?
Wendy and I worked together on a show two years ago called WiLd! Wendy then approached me about writing something that would be driven by movement and physicality about football. And it was very different to anything I’d written before so I was really excited by the challenge.
Where did the idea for Keepy Uppy came from and how did you research it?
Wendy suggested football and physicality so then I had to find a story. I was never into football as a kid or very good at any team sports. But because my son is so in love with football, I’ve been kicking a ball with him and it’s suddenly become something I’m interested in because he’s interested in it.
What was a negative thing for me as a child has become this really positive bonding thing as a parent. My son is enrolled in toddler football classes so it was perfect research for this - watching how little kids learn the skills, develop their motor skills, and master the ball. And I also I watched lots of YouTube videos! We also worked with Leeds University who filled in blanks about the physiology of the sport and what happens to the body when playing.
There’s also aspects of mental health - anxiety and nerves - that I’d seen in children but is most often discussed relating to adults and I wanted to touch on what it feels to be a kid in a situation where the stakes seem very high. Even from an adult’s point of view, the stakes seem much lower.
We’ve all had days where everything seems to go wrong and we’re going to miss something really important - so I’m writing about that day.
Why write a play about football?
It’s such a part of the cultural lifeblood and identity of this country. I’m really interested in sport and the arts mixing and not being these separate things.
What challenges did you have in writing Keepy Uppy?
The biggest challenges were firstly, that I don’t know that much about football. So, I had to get my head around the game since most kids know more than I do. The second was that the play is all written in rhyme. As soon as I’d change something in one draft a whole section would start to unravel. But it was a fun challenge!
What do you hope the audience will get from seeing the play?
The fulfilment that comes from perseverance. And how important imagination and creativity are in sport.
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It’s super exciting to watch - wait till you see the moves these performers can do.
If you have to sum up the play in 3 words what would they be?
Boy kicks football.
How heavily are you involved in the rehearsal process for your shows?
I guess I’m like the out of town family member. I’m very full on when I’m there, but I disappear for large periods of time. I like to leave the actors and other creatives the time to play and experiment without me there, so I can come back and feed in at later stages when they’ve discovered their own ideas and take on the play.
Who were and are your inspirations when it comes to writing?
The young people I often encounter. I’m also always inspired by underdogs.
How did you start your career?
I was a child actor which didn’t work out post-puberty. I wrote two plays as a teen that my high school did which I loved, so I went and did and MA in scriptwriting and then my first proper play, Mother of Him, won some awards which helped introduce to me to theatres and the opportunity to create new work.
What do you think are the biggest challenges of writing for children?
Getting them to the theatre to see the work. We need a cultural shift so that children and communities start to see theatres as their own, as places they can walk into and be a part of.
How important is theatre for young children?
We need to foster their imaginations and creativity. What better way than through theatre.
What is the most important piece of advice you could give someone who is thinking of starting to write plays?
Write what you’re passionate about; don’t worry about what you think you’re supposed to write, just write what you want - and the reader/audiences will be excited because they can feel your pulse and passion through the writing.
Why do you mainly write for children and not adults?
I spend a lot of time around children and young people so those are usually the stories that I get inspired by. And you can go anywhere and do anything in work for children - they haven’t made up their mind about the world yet.
Who do you feel are the more difficult audiences to please – children or adults?
Children, by a long shot. Adults will sit quietly when they’re bored or work hard at engaging. Most children haven’t chosen to be there - someone’s brought them, and they’ll let you know if it’s not engaging them. It’s the reason you have to work so vigorously to create a play for young audiences.
What's next for Evan Placey?
I’m working on a play for Birmingham REP/National Theatre Company of Korea which will be on in the autumn, as well as numerous other play commissions and projects for TV and film.
Finally, who is going to win the World Cup this year?
Don’t we always tell kids ‘Everyone’s a winner.'
Keepy Uppy will be at the Howard Assembly Rooms (5 May), Square Chapel Halifax (22nd May) and York Theatre Royal (20-23 June).
For info visit https://tutti-frutti.org.uk/show/keepy-uppy-by-evan-placey/?section=our-work
Nutty For Footy – New Play Keepy Uppy, 12th April 2018, 20:03 PM