Barracking for the Umpire

BSSTC Ian Wilkes features in Barracking for the Umpire photo by Frances AndrijichAfter a best-on-ground performance in 2022, Andrea Gibbs’ award-winning family drama Barracking for the Umpire returns for an encore Perth season at the Subiaco Arts Centre from 23 April, before hitting the road on a regional WA tour.

Fresh from winning the 2022 Performing Arts WA (PAWA) Award for Outstanding New Work, the play celebrates the remarkable talent of first-time playwright Andrea Gibbs, best known for her work as an ABC Weekends presenter and Barefaced Stories.

“Not only is Barracking for the Umpire very funny, but it also covers important subject matter like concussion in sport, especially in football. I feel it will strike a chord in regional WA, as many of these communities follow the AFL. This makes it the perfect play to tour to the regions.

Barracking for the Umpire tackles head-on the fragility of the human body and the impact of the great game on our players, our family and our community. At its core, the story revolves around Doug Williams – the greatest footballer Donnybrook has ever seen – and his devoted wife, Delveen, who has stood by his side through every triumph and every head knock.

Donnybrook Football Club, The Mighty Dons, want to honour Doug with a Lifetime Achievement award, leading his children Ben, a rising AFL star, and Mena, an ambitious sports journalist, to travel back home to celebrate. They reunite with their parents and eldest sister Charaine, who lives in town and has just broken up with Tom, who runs the local footy club.

There’s never a dull moment when the Williams’ family gets together. We quickly grow to love these people as they gather for Doug’s big day, but it becomes clear, that something’s not quite right with Doug… The sure hands of this once-great player are starting to fumble the ball.

The siblings begin to understand why Charaine lost her passion for football as they witness the decline of their father’s health due to repeated head injuries from the game.

Andrea Gibbs draws on real-life events and her personal family experience – having witnessed the hard knocks of football first hand when her father’s injuries meant he put the football down to become an umpire.

“Mum would follow him to all his games and cheer him on. Mum was the only one who’d be out there barracking for the umpire!” Andrea remembers. “Barracking for the Umpire is not simply a play about footy – it is about family and connection. It is about identity and love. It is about the sacrifices people make on both sides of the fence.”

Funny, sad, urgent and timely, Barracking for the Umpire tackles ‘blokes’ and their vulnerability, the fragility of the human body, and the impacts of brain injuries on ourselves, our families, and our community.

The conversation about Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) is a topical one and the play explores the effects of this debilitating condition on the heart of a loving family.

Barracking for the Umpire is a story that will resonate with every AFL fan, player, and parent, offering a unique and heart-warming perspective on the impact of the great game on lives.

Don’t miss this unforgettable theatrical experience as it tours to regional WA during May and June 2024. Venues include Albany, Broome, Esperance, Geraldton, Karratha, Mandurah, Margaret River and Port Hedland.

“A production that brings footy back to Subiaco… highly entertaining yet heartbreaking” – The West Australian

Director: Clare Watson | Featuring: Michael Abercromby, Pippa Grandison, Joel Jackson, Steve Le Marquand, Ebony McGuire, Jo Morris, Ian Wilkes | Dramaturg: Polly Low | Set & Costume Designer: Sara Chirichilli | Lighting Designer: Lucy Birkinshaw | Composer & Sound Designer: Joe Paradise Lui | Video Designer: Michael Carmody | Stage Manager: Izzy Taylor | Assistant Stage Manager: Riley Billyeald | Writer: Andrea Gibbs

Barracking for the Umpire
Subiaco Arts Centre, 180 Hamersley Road, Perth
Season: 23 April – 5 May 2024
Information and Bookings:

Image: Ian Wilkes features in Barracking for the Umpire – photo by Frances Andrijich