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Heading to The Fringe: An Interview with writer and star of Fan/Girl Bryony Byrne

As we head towards The Fringe season I had the opportunity to speak to Writer and Star of Fan / Girl - Bryony Byrne in this Behind the Curtain interview.

Absurd, optimistic and joyful, Bryony Byrne’s Fan/Girl is a tongue-in-cheek ride through British adolescence against a backdrop of nineties football.

(Photo Credit: Edward Moore)


What is ‘Fan/Girl’ about?


Fan/Girl is a tragi-comedy about how it feels to grow up and to be told that you can't do something you once loved. It's a celebration of 90s football and pop and of the freedom that existed in my childhood to do what I wanted, before gender expectations and adolescence began to warp that world. It follows a young, football-mad girl as she leaves primary school and heads to secondary school, along with all the new changes that transition brings, including the loss of football in her life.  


What was the inspiration behind the show?


It's based on my own story. I used to love football when I was a kid, and it was all my friends and I talked about and did. But then at some point I just stopped playing it and I was curious about when that moment was and whether my old teammates had also experienced the same thing, or whether they still played football. I went back and interviewed some of my primary school friends - some of the girls I used to play football with and none of them play football anymore. Some of them had even forgotten how mad they were about it at the time, even though, to me, it's still a huge part of their identity!


What influenced you to tell this story on stage? And how important do you think it is in today’s society?


I really wanted to make a show that captured some of the enthusiasm and innocence we had about football when we were young. It felt like the halcyon days of football, before it got really, truly corporate and before we learnt that it wasn't for us - boys coming in with Beckham's new hairstyle, everyone talking about Michael Owen, girls wearing England shirts they'd got off the market. It was the fact that women's football was starting to be shown on telly that made me think about those days again, and about how much I had loved the game. And I think it's a story that so many people can relate to. So many people have been, and continue to be, excluded from sport because of some weird, arbitrary, made-up rules around gender.  Even now, although the interest and support in womens' football continues to grow, there's still so far to go. It's still not offered equally to girls in schools. How can it be the game which defines our nation if half the population aren't allowed to play it?  


Who is the target audience? And what are 3 major takeaways you want the audience to learn after seeing the show?


I'd love women in their thirties and forties to come and see it. It's the sort of show that everyone will enjoy but people who grew up when I did, in the 90s, will really really get it - all the little jokes and easter eggs I've put in there will be a great delight.  It's such a fun show if you love football but if you don't, it's also very much a show for you. I want people to leave feeling really united, having had a lot of fun and maybe also reflecting on the things that they've forgotten they once loved.


What is it like performing in and writing your own show?


I love it. It's so empowering to be able to write something and share it directly with an audience. It's really boosted my confidence as an artist. I think the hardest thing about writing and performing a solo show is that sometimes you'll just find yourself in a room alone trying to develop the work without anyone else there. That's when it's easy to lose hope or faith in the idea so it's important to have people around you who can remind you to keep going. When other people also believe in the idea and it begins to have a life outside of yourself, that's when it really feels worthwhile and enjoyable.


How would you describe the writing style of the show?


The show is a bit absurdist. My background is in comedy so I lean into the humour and silliness.  You're often being led through the show by a ten-year old version of myself and her innocence and self-importance can be quite charming. But then there's also Eric Cantona, who's obviously incredibly esoteric, poetic and authorative. It does follow a kind of classic narrative structure but I've enjoyed playing with the possibilities of a world perceived through the eyes of a pre-teen, raised on pop culture, musicals and football.  


What advice would you give to any writers who maybe don’t know how to start putting their work out there?


This is often the hardest thing as a writer - how do you get your work out there? A lot of times people submit to competitions, which I think is good but can also cost money and the competition is fierce. Another way is to try and perform the work, either yourself or by finding other people to perform it. This isn't free either but there are ways you can make it work - some venues will give you space for a box office split, great groups like Messy Writers often have callouts for work for performance. And don't underestimate the power of sending the work to people you like - find production companies or directors whose work you enjoy and reach out to see if they'd be interested in reading the work.  The key thing to remember is that once you start putting stuff out there people start engaging with it and with you and they make it easier to take the next step. You're never really alone, even though it often feels like it as a writer.


How does it feel to be taking your show to The Fringe? And what are you most looking forward to?


I'm so excited to be at Summerhall this year in the Demonstration Room. It's such a brilliant space for the show and I think it's going to feel really special there. Although The Fringe can sometimes be really hard work for performers - you're performing almost every day, you're marketing the show, it's expensive, you're trying to see other work, etc etc - it's also so rare to be able to focus solely on your show and your craft for a full month so I really enjoy that. I'm looking forward to being in that kind of headspace, where every day you get a new audience to play with.


Who is your favourite Football Player and Team? And if you could have played football professionally what position would you have played?


My favourite football player has to be Eric Cantona. I play a version of him in the show and it's such a joy. I think he interests me because he seemed to expand the notion of what a football player could be. Yes, he's a brilliant football player, but he also quotes King Lear onstage at awards shows. He's got this absolute kind of certainty about who he is and what he believes and I find that very compelling.  However, my favourite team was definitely Arsenal when I was young. I grew up in St. Albans and they used to spend a lot of time at Sopwell House, so it sort of felt like they were the local team in a weird way.  If I could have played football professionally I'd have liked to have played right midfield. I always liked the transition between offense and defense and the collaboration with the other players.  


Describe the show in one sentence or 3 words?


An audience member said, 'Some of the most fun audience participation I’ve seen at a show, making the audience feel like we’re all in on the same party.'


Fan / Girl will be at The Fringe this year, performing at Summerhall (Demonstration Room) Thursday 1st – Monday 26th August 2024 (not 12th, 19th)

Box Office Tickets are available from


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