Andrea Gibbs has written a play that will rile up passion and conversation in a range of audiences, as was apparent from the wide spectrum of people sat the theatre bar surrounded by photos of old Donnybrook Footy teams and memorabilia.
It’s no secret, the crossover between sports and theatre kids is small and I was nervous I wouldn’t find this show appealing because it relies heavily on WA as a setting and Footy as a subject. I was wrong, Barracking for the Umpire is Black Swan Theatre’s new something for everyone.

Gibb’s writing gracefully darts between poignant subjects, touching on learning to live with a disability, the rights of gay people, feminism and the fragility and toxicity of masculinity; but this is more than just a left wing TED talk. The writing is done with a real sense of humour and is broken into scenes that are palatable and not overwhelming.

The play doesn’t answer the questions it asks, which was initially frustrating, but it is only during discussions on the way home and in the theatre foyer that we realise Gibbs opened a door to conversation and left it that way intentionally.
The dialogue is light and realistic, entertaining and perfectly adapted for a Perth Audience. Small rewrites will help this play transfer outside the state and the country if it ever does. And it should.
On the stage, Steve Le Marquand gives a consistently subtly strong lead performance which both draws his character of Doug to the centre stage, but also gives time for his supporting cast to flourish. And they do. Michael Abercromby and Jo Morris have comedic presence, heavily weighted on how much you can believe they really are the couple that never left Donnybrook. Ebony McGuire’s first entrance to the stage felt nervous, but by the second scene, she had settled into her pace and delivery, her character developing into one of the most likeable on stage and the characters journey and choices being encapsulating to follow.
Ian Wilkes and Joel Jackson give equally strong performances and whilst their first on stage kiss feels shoehorned into the direction, it’s a small blot on an otherwise perfect scorecard.
Some staging choices were interesting. I don’t know many households that have their lounge room mirror and television in exactly the same spot. Many of the choices felt bound by the decision to only have one set with a large lounger centre stage. This pushed scenes outside of the living room into the front centre of the diamond stage, and having a typical shaggy 1970s carpet across the entire space worked well as a living room, but didn’t help to transport an audience to scenes like Perth Airport or Toastmasters. People walk differently on carpeted floors. Apart from that, Sara Chirchilli’s set design was well used throughout, and her costumes were perfect for the setting of the piece. Often overlooked in theatre reviews is how subtly perfect the surround sound design of Joe Paradise Lui was; perfectly mastered to every scene and never overwhelming.
Barracking for the Umpires is an important piece of theatre and I hope it has a future outside of this limited season.
4 stars.
Find out more and secure your tickets here.