There are many brilliant, well-loved plays about football. From The Red Lion to Zigger Zagger, British theatre has long been drawn to the beautiful game. But gay characters in these dramas are
conspicuous by their absence.
With the odd notable exception (such as The Pass, later filmed), football plays follow straight white men in a hyper-masculine, fiercely heterosexual yet intensely fraternal environment.
Target Man, a new piece from award-winning writer Mark Starling, is a play about football with two
gay players at its heart. There are currently no openly gay professional male footballers in the UK.
The only male Premier League player to come out publicly was Justin Fashanu, almost two decades ago in 1990; he committed suicide in 1998. Then in late July this year, the week before we began rehearsals, the Gay Footballer Twitter account promised a Championship League player was about to make history. After amassing thousands of followers, the account was deleted, and gay players continue to shoulder the pressure of concealing their identities.
Of the 4,000 professional footballers in Britain, it’s estimated that around 500 will be gay. Target
Man asks what might happen if a group were to come out side-by-side: how the media and the
public would respond, what the psychological demands on the players might be, and how safe
they’d be from exploitation. Mark began writing the play in 2017, yet two years later it’s never felt
so timely or so necessary.
This play doesn’t have the answers. Instead, we want to open up a dialogue around homophobia in
sport, in the hope that one day, we won’t need stories like Target Man anymore. We’re delighted to
be closing King’s Head Theatre’s Queer Season, and we hope you’ll join us to be part of the conversation.
Target Man opens on Tuesday 20 August.