Not a Game for Girls, a charming original work by Benjamin Peel, explores the shifting expectations and social taboos of Britain after the havoc and destruction wreaked by the First World War on the established order. The historical setting is at once familiar, and focuses on an aspect of the time which receives little cultural attention.
The play follows the trials and triumphs of a young women’s football team as they compete to be the best, raising eyebrows and funds for injured veterans as they become the foremost ladies’ team in the North of England. The characters are sympathetic and must contend not just with the opposition, but with the poverty of post-war England and the mental illness of the few men who returned from the trenches. Peel tries to pack a great deal of social commentary into a two-act format, and while this doesn’t give all the character arcs enough time to breathe properly, I was fascinated by the small details of life at the time which, in our fixation on the Great War itself, fall by the wayside of our cultural memory.
The cast work well together as a complementary ensemble, encapsulating the camaraderie of a sports team. Special mention goes to Laura Castle as Lily Parr, as the outwardly charismatic if inwardly confused striker who finds herself on the field, and Guy Matthews for his brief but welcome injection of comic timing.
Not a Game for Girls by Benjamin Peel, performing at the Friargate Theatre 15th-18th of June at 7:30pm. Tickets available at the box office (£8/10).