Footballers Find a New Skill in Reading the Play – The Age (03/03/94)

Footballers Find A New Skill In Reading The Play
03 March 1994
The Age

The spirit of the football club that refuses to die will be celebrated at the Fitzroy Town Hall over the next three nights.

`The Fabulous Fitzroy Footy Show’ has been scripted by Barry Dickins, the man who once declared that he began his career wanting to be Bertolt Barassi, a working-class playwright committed to social attack. It is possible that he has never been closer to realising his youthful ambition.


The show summons the spirit of the old Fitzroy, “the back lanes, the bottles and the criminals”, and the days when a piece of flake in a fish shop after a win tasted like victory. Its recurring theme is a statement attributed to the former Fitzroy ruckman Alan “Butch” Gale: “In the end, the money doesn’t count. You only go in for your mates.”


A number of players, past and present, appear in the show. At Fitzroy, says coach Robert Shaw, appearing in a theatre production goes with being part of the club. “You get swallowed by Fitzroy’s history and culture,” he says. “You have to be part of it.”


The show’s director, Will Gluth, has just finished a season playing the Dutch painter Vincent Van Gogh at the Victorian Arts Centre. Other professional actors involved in the production include Gil Tucker, Nadine Garner, Mary-Anne Fahey and Alan Hardy (son of the late Fitzroy enthusiast Frank Hardy).


The comedian Tony Rickards barracks for Hawthorn, but says he is appearing in the show (as an AFL director) because he has lived and worked in Fitzroy, but only been once to Fremantle (site of the proposed new AFL club). The musical director, Rocky Dabscheck, is a Collingwood supporter.


“When I found out that Jeff Kennett wasn’t prepared to help Fitzroy, I realised that they must be a thoroughly worthwhile cause,” he says.

Ruckman James Manson came to Fitzroy after playing in Collingwood’s 1990 premiership team. He appears as a doctor who operates to save the life of the AFL commissioner Ross Oakley. “People think that because Fitzroy’s got money problems, it’s less of a club. If anything, it’s better. It’s made us closer _ not only the players, but the players and the supporters. When you play for Fitzroy, you’re really playing for something.”


The show is rich in sentiment and longing. One scene features six women putting together the club’s weekly newsletter. They talk like people on assembly lines do, idly filling the present with scraps from the past. One recalls an old woman in the ’30s hearing that Chicken Smallhorn had corked his thigh at training.


“Do you know she used to hobble all the way up Brunswick Street all alone and that she would worship at St Pat’s and get down on her hands and knees and light a candle for the speedy repair of Chicken Smallhorn’s buttocks?” “That’s love,” observes one of her co-workers.


“What other word will do?” says a third.


Tickets for `The Fabulous Fitzroy Footy Show’ are available at the door _ $20 and $12 _ or through the Fitzroy Football Club. Telephone 4824922.

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