They act, they score

1st March 1996 at 00:00
Beaner Gillespie looks a bit fierce - he's a skinhead, and easily led as well. He's fed up because he always has to play in goal, because he's tall. He secretly fancies Tanya, but she's outspoken and confident, and anyway, she's going with Kelvin. Kelvin's good at football, and good at ignoring racist remarks, while his sister, Simone, has a big chip on her shoulder, not about being black, but about her Dad running out on them. Showab is the best footballer, but, as he's Asian, none of the coaches take him seriously.

Then there's Eddie Phillips: he used to play for West Ham - or so he says, and he coached the under-12s when Beaner played for them. They won everything in sight, till the council disbanded them, because of Eddie's "whites only" policy.

These are the characters played by the young actors of the ARC Theatre Ensemble, from Barking in Essex, who brought Clifford Oliver's play Kicking Out on a tour of Lothian last month. With the support of the region and sponsorship from Midland Bank, Leyton Orient Football Club and others, they presented the play in high schools and community centres to enthusiastic, impressed and visibly moved third- and fourth-year pupils.

The play was commissioned to help put across the message "Let's kick racism out of football", and anyone who witnessed the treatment meted out to players such as Mark Walters, Kevin Harper, Paul Elliot and Basile Boli, will be aware of the need for this message to be pressed home every bit as much in Scotland as south of the border.

Hibs and Hearts were represented by Gordon Hunter, Kevin Harper, John Robertson, and Kevin Thomas at the various Edinburgh venues. For the West Lothian performance, at St Kentigern's Academy in Blackburn, Jim Leishman and chairman Bill Hunter from Livingston FC attended and spoke to pupils from St Kentigern's and Bathgate Academy, while Rangers' community officer, Ewen Chester, further underlined the anti-bigotry message with his visit to the school.

The centre point of the action is Showab's revelation of how he watched his uncle beaten to death by a racist mob, all, like Eddie Phillips, "ordinary guys". Such was the power of Tiran Aakel's performance as Showab, that St Kentigern's pupils are still discussing his tour de force, and therein lies the strength of this production. It combines the visual power of live theatre, with the electricity of youthful acting, and a simple message - relayed with humour and passion as well as sensitivity.

Sean McPartlin is an assistant headteacher at St Kentigern's Academy.

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