Barracking for the Umpire

Steve Le Marquand, Pippa Grandison, Ian Wilkes, Ebony McGuire and Jo Morris in Barracking for the Umpire - photo by Daniel J GrantPlaywright Andrea Gibbs has written a hilarious, emotional, heartfelt piece that tugs at the heart strings and will have you leaving having experienced a remarkable night of theatre.

Gibbs manages to peel away her characters emotional journeys like an onion. And at the centre of it all is a family whose way of life and their zealous love of football, leads to the family’s turmoil and breakdown. And like an onion, it will have you in tears.

Amongst all this, Gibbs also manages to address some of societies current prejudices and ideals. She allows the audience time to digest each prejudice and examines and presents the various points of view. She has masterfully and successfully woven all this into a ninety minute production.

Barracking for the Umpire is a tale of a family coming together to recognise the achievements of one of its own football heroes, Doug Williams. As the three siblings reunite in the family home secrets are revealed and old wounds are re-opened. The entire cast is flawless as each character’s relationship is well developed and establish.

Joel Jackson as coach is a rough, tough coach that expects and elicits the best from his players. Jackson’s motivation is loud and so convincing, at some points I wanted to yell, “Yes coach!” The multiple scenes in which he is required to lower himself behind the bar were comical and explained his well developed thighs.

Pippa Grandison and Steve Le Marquand as mum and dad, Delveen and Doug Williams performances are heart felt and emotional. They shared a convincing relationship of a loving couple ready to take on the many post retirement adventures many dream of.

Grandison’s speech at the Bunbury Toastmaster Evening was hilarious and heartfelt and indicative of her entire performance. Le Marquand’s final plea as he becomes aware of his illness is highly emotive and I’m sure didn’t leave a dry eye in the house.

Jo Morris, Ebony McGuire and Ian Wilkes as siblings Charaine, Mena and Ben are strong together and share some hilariously funny and emotional scenes. Each sibling is battling various demons which raise their head through the performance.  This gives each cast member the chance to shine and share their talents with the audience.

Michael Abercromby as Tom is convincing as the awkward almost ex-son-in-law. It seems everyone loves him accept his ex, Charaine. The scene in which he arrives at the family home to give Charaine a birthday present was cringingly convincing.

Although set in modern times, the set, designed by Sara Chirichilli, transports the audience back to the Williams family home in Donnybrook, Western Australia. A home built in the nineteen eighties complete with feature brick wall and bar in the living room.

If like me, you missed the original production back in 2022, be sure not to miss this encore Perth season and regional tour.  Do not miss this chance to see a local Western Australian story by a visionary playwright, production crew and cast.

It is one of the most emotional and heartfelt pieces of theatre you will witness backdropped against the Australian obsession and fabric that is Australian Rules football.

Barracking for the Umpire
Subiaco Arts Centre, 180 Hamersley Road, Perth
Performance: Wednesday 24 April 2024
Season continues to 5 May 2024
Information and Bookings:

Image: Steve Le Marquand, Pippa Grandison, Ian Wilkes, Ebony McGuire and Jo Morris in Barracking for the Umpire – photo by Daniel J Grant

Review: Craig Dalglish