After a successful premiere in 2016, Bouncing Back is – well, back! In those three years, netball as an international sport has become more prominent, with the Netball World Cup being held in Liverpool this year. But my initial impression of a play about netball was, admittedly: will there be many bouncing balls?
There’s a few. And the first act’s set of P.E. benches may have induced the shudder of gym lessons past when I first took my seat. But this is more an amusing play about a disparate group of women coming together to let off steam, get fit and have fun. And certainly, the audience were chortling throughout, especially at the first circuit training session. It did feel many kinds of wrong to relax back in the seats with a gin and tonic while nine women hopped through ladders and over hurdles, but by their fourth circuit, when the torturous regime had reduced them to a hilarious slo-mo struggle, the gin seemed the easier option.
On this opening night, it may have lacked a bit of polish, but this also added to the realism and naturalism. These are characters dealing with familiar issues, and their struggle is real: to become independent of those dependent on them for a couple of hours a week, and to become a team. It certainly resonated with the audience, the majority of whom were female. And if you want to know how on earth you stage a netball match for an audience… well, get yourself along to Storyhouse before this Saturday and witness the pivoting in skilfully coordinated motion.
Speaking about the 2019 production of the play, Playwright Gail Young (who herself played in various school netball teams) said “I am really excited that ‘Bouncing Back’ is returning to the stage in both Chester and Liverpool in 2019, the year that the Netball World Cup comes to Liverpool. The cast are really throwing themselves into rehearsals, especially the match sequences, to ensure that the show has an authentic netball feel to it! It is a real celebration of a game that women all over the country are flocking back to. A “must see” for anyone connected to the sport – but also a good night out at the theatre for all.”