Football is a game of two halves. Theatre usually is too. Football, according to those I know who are addicted to it, provides a platform from which to talk about truth, beauty and deeply felt philosophical concerns. Theatre shares this; both are team sports that require training and direction. Both reward talent and those at the top of their game in each amass huge followings. There is much that is similar, but how they are enjoyed differs hugely.
Watching the Euros recently has been illuminating. The roar of the crowd of nations cheering their teams onto the next stage is impressive and emotional. There is something very humbling about a collective spirit that is anchored in hope and possibility.
This week, in the UK, such optimism has been shattered – and by own goals. England has crashed out of the Euros and blame is being attributed to lack of direction and no rigour in training. We've also taken ourselves out of the EU, much to the dismay of the whole of Scotland, London, Northern Ireland, Gibraltar and most of England’s large cities. In doing so, we've weakened our defence, reduced our opportunities, elected the wrong manager, coach and captain, as well as dividing a nation that, fewer than 2 years ago, everyone was passionate to preserve.
We've behaved like the worst of football crowds - those for whom the outcome of the game is secondary. ‘I’ rather than ‘We’ has succeeded. Ultimately, the rise of the individual has only one outcome.
The sport of theatre, whilst imperfect, has always found a way to protest and affect change without smashing beer bottles and disenfranchising others. It seeks to be a safe shared space where debate can polarise without ending in a riot. ‘We’ prevails over ‘I’ and spectators enjoy great games from match-fit players who understand the roles they have to play.
We need to get more people in this country into theatres. We need to support playwrights and enable them to write stories about our time. The arts need to be promoted within education to the same level as sport. Perhaps then we'll develop into a nation that embraces change, invites difference and seeks to work as a unified force on the global stage.
No man is an island and the ball is round!