We’re Not Really Here: A Football Opera review at Contact, Manchester – ‘quietly radical’

The cast of We're Not Really Here at Contact, Manchester. Photo: Lee Baxter The cast of We're Not Really Here at Contact, Manchester. Photo: Lee Baxter

Despite its subtitle, there is no opera and very little actual football contained in We’re Not Really Here, a quietly radical collaboration between Contact and members of Flemish community theatre champions Het Kip.

Instead, the focus is firmly on the fans – in this UK premiere it’s supporters of Manchester City football club, where previous incarnations have visited Ireland, Finland and the Netherlands – who, in a surprisingly effective reversal, occupy the raked seats of the auditorium while the audience view the action from vantage point of the players on the pitch.

Its trio of Belgian director/devisors have worked with a pool of more than 30 Man City supporters of varying ages to bring the experience of watching your favourite team with the same group of strangers week in and week out vividly to life.

There is no real narrative, rather a living tableau as the fans gather on the terraces, squabble and then join in with chants and songs en masse. Snatches of conversation and tiny nuggets of drama – such as one young fan trying to sneak a mouthful of crisps during a minute’s silence for the victims of the Manchester Arena bomb – get interrupted by the gasps and groans of the crowd, while some moments, like a defiant rendition of Oasis’s Don’t Look Back in Anger, build into effectively realised set-pieces.

However, this scattershot nature and a scant running time makes for a mildly diverting snapshot rather than a fully formed theatrical experience. Thankfully, the sheer joie de vivre of its participants lifts this above mere theatrical experiment.

A bright but all too brief depiction of football fandom lifted by the enthusiasm of its non-professional cast