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Football, identity, and theatre collide in Keisha Thompson’s new play ‘14%’

Keisha Thompson, the Artistic Director and CEO of Contact Theatre brings her love for football and the politics of identity onto the stage with her new play, '14%.'

We explore the intersection of sports, politics, and inspiring stories in this immersive production.

Artistic Director and CEO of the Contact Theatre – Keisha Thompson is a huge football fan.

And when she sat down and explored where this passion came from, and the issues of politics and identity, that sit within this sport, she decided to put pen to paper and write a play.

14% evolved from there and, of course, since then the rise of women’s football has been inspirational and incredible to watch – on and off the pitch.

We caught up with Keisha to find out more about this new production which is directed by Nathan Powell and stars Lauren Fitzpatrick.

When did your love of football begin?

When I was tiny. I used to play when I was in primary school. Loved it. Except when they tried to put me in goal. Not goalie material! I remember Wes Brown from United visiting us when I was about 9 years old. I couldn’t believe it.

14% is supported by the National Football Museum. What is their involvement?

There has been a lot of marketing support and being put in touch with their community groups and schools for our workshops and the upcoming shows.

We’re doing some post-show discussions and they’re helping us with approaching speakers. The show has an immersive element to it, so we’ve had access to their exhibition materials and spaces to inform our thinking around that.

When you look at women’s football and young girls being inspired to play and the Spanish women’s team fighting back, how does it inform your writing or the vision you have for this play?

It feels like the right time for this play. I started writing it a couple of years ago and the increasing growth in interest in women’s football has motivated me to make changes to the script, for sure. In the first draft, Nadia (the protagonist) was a football fan. But as things started to develop in the world and in my thinking, I was like, “No! She’s not a fan. She’s a footballer!”

Is there anything in the play for people who are not football fans?

Loads. You don’t need to know a thing about football to understand this play. I like to write things that hopefully attract people for various reasons and from different walks of life. Theatre is always an opportunity for cross-pollination. I want to bring unique groups of people together to be entertained and sometimes challenged.

Bend it Like Beckham is now 21 years old, was the film in your head/on your radar when you were writing this?

I adore that film. It’s one that I quote from regularly so it’s in my bones. I can’t say that I was specifically thinking about this film when I was writing this play though.

Contact is such a welcoming space, if someone has not been before and they are navigating the cost of living crisis, what concession tickets are available?

We have pinch tickets available. And we have a statement here on our website explaining what these are.

Theatre is tough post covid. How are you managing to keep audiences coming back?

We’re trying our best like all the other cultural spaces out there. Even when times are less difficult than now, we’re not the kind of venue that rests on its laurels.

Our Marketing team are smashing it with our campaigns.

So, I’m as happy as I can be with the current climate. We support work that sits on the fringes and that isn’t always immediately familiar.

We have audiences who are supportive of our work, enjoy the broadness of our programme and are booking early so, we’re super grateful for the continued support that we’ve had so far. We will always work to get more people in our building to see interesting work and support local artists.

If someone has not been to the theatre for a while, why should they come and see 14%?

It’s not your typical theatre show. It’s down-to-earth. You don’t need to know anything in advance. You can wear your hoodie. You can wear your slippers. You can come on your own. We’ve got you!

14% is at Contact from 14th – 28th October and can be booked here

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