Balls Etc

Cerys Bradley is Having a Good Try

Cerys Bradley. Copyright: Miranda Holms

What a summer of sport this is turning out to be. The Lionesses becoming Wembley legends, an awesome bull (and a bullish Joe Lycett) launching Brum's Commonwealth Games, human rights protests at Wimbledon, contentious superstar golf in, er, St Albans. Even the Edinburgh Fringe has an intriguing bunch of sporting shows on the schedules.

The rugby-loving Cerys Bradley is grabbing the Gilded Balloon and running with it, for example. Bradley's show Sportsperson is, as the official blurb puts it, 'about playing sport and fitting in and how Cerys is quite bad at both of those things.' And some of those debacles were pretty dramatic, as they reveal below.

Bradley certainly revelled in making this show, though, utilising props, voice-overs, and creating a fanzine with their rugby team and other LGBT+ organisations. Which is timely too, given the tough gender-related rulings rugby and other sports are making at the moment.

But let's kick off with a setback on the track.

How did Sportsperson come about - was there a specific on-field incident that made you think 'this should be a show'?

Originally, I wrote the show about a disastrous attempt I made at the Ealing Half Marathon back in 2015. I ran the race very badly and ended up in hospital for a few days. I thought it would make a good show because (1) everything that went wrong was my own fault and (2) I survived to tell the tale.

The name of the show isn't actually from a sport related incidence though, that came from a set I wrote a while ago about my mum's unique approach to parenting and a weird thing my uncle said to me once.

Cerys Bradley. Copyright: Steve Ullathorne

Has it evolved a fair bit along the way?

Yes, considerably! I first performed a version of Sportsperson last year at the Camden Fringe and, back then, the main focus was my half marathon story. That was the main thread that was supposed to be tying everything together. I had way too much material and thoughts and themes though, so the show has evolved, I think, to become a lot simpler and more efficient.

Now the show is more about me and the relationships that I have with different identities and labels. My attempt at the Ealing Half is still in there, but it's been de-prioritised and I mostly use it to win an argument with the audience, rather than drive the show.

Rugby looks to be your real sport of choice, when did you get a taste for that?

I started playing rugby in 2019. I saw my team marching in the Pride Parade and then procrastinated for several months before finally working up the courage to go to a training session. I got to play half a season before lockdown hit. I remember the announcements because they were right after our last match of the season and we were on the train discussing whether this would be our last chance to go outside for a while.

Cerys Bradley. Copyright: Miranda Holms

So, most of the time that I've been a part of the club, we actually haven't been able to play. I still like to think of myself as a newbie as I've only played one full season, but we managed to recruit a lot of new people when things opened up again, so that's comparatively not really true anymore. (Also, technically, I'm vice captain of my team next year so definitely have to stop making the newbie excuse.)

Are there particular qualities and skills you bring to the rugby field?

In terms of skills, I wouldn't say many. I try very hard but I'm not very coordinated or athletic. In one game last season I stepped into 13 for the first time [i.e., played the important outside-centre role] and my vice captain told me that my job would be to (1) pass the ball out in attack and (2) intimidate my opposite number in defence.

We came out onto the pitch and their outside centre was huge and I knocked on nearly every ball passed to me so not much luck on either objective.

Having said that, if I were to claim that I contributed one thing... I had a go at refereeing last season. I did a course and refereed a few games so I think I have a better understanding of the rules than most.

What's your greatest sporting moment, so far?

Probably my first turnover in a game [i.e. winning the ball back, basically]. At the beginning of last season I played for another team who were short on numbers. They were a league above and it was a massive step up and the opposition was much better than us and we got absolutely destroyed.

But, I ripped the ball for the first time and managed to make one or two turnovers in the ruck. That was pretty cool because it requires a lot more confidence than I had been playing with previously, so now I'm always looking to make a turnover or steal the ball.

Cerys Bradley. Copyright: Steve Ullathorne

And your least-greatest moment?

There are so many (including on the rugby pitch) but if I can only pick one it's definitely being escorted to the medical tent after flopping over the finish line after my half marathon knowing I only had myself to blame.

It was very embarrassing lying on a gurney with ice packed in my crotch explaining that I simply hadn't drunk enough because my feet had gotten too hot in the race and it seemed perfectly logical to pour all my water onto them...

The zine idea sounds very cool - was it inspired by other publications, sporting or otherwise?

I love a good zine. This one was inspired by a lot of the different queer publications that I have read over the years that share personal experiences and histories. I wanted to make something that would expand the world of non-binary and trans sporting experiences beyond my own, and have always loved the way that zines can connect you to a community and be born through collaboration and craft.

Making a zine felt like a very natural companion to building the show, and I found the workshops to be fun but also really cathartic and emotionally healing.

What are your favourite contributions to the zine - did anything really surprise you?

I refuse to choose one! I loved everything that people contributed. There are some funny pieces and some interesting ones, some really beautiful pieces of art and some that are wonderfully weird.

It was ridiculously hard, and a little heartbreaking, to choose the few pieces we did choose as we had about 40 submissions overall and only eight pages. That's partly why we built the website as well, so that you can see everything that was made at the workshops, as well as hear from the artists themselves.

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