The co-founder of a ‘socially engaged’ theatre company has reflected on a busy 2023 which finished with a very successful production at Edinburgh’s Traverse Theatre.

Wonder Fools is a registered charity which helps bring real-life stories to the stage.

Former Preston Lodge High School pupil Robbie Gordon, 30, who was brought up in Port Seton, trained at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, where he met Jack Nurse and the pair went on to co-found Wonder Fools.

The company has put on a number of theatre productions, including McNeill of Tranent: The Fastest Man in the World.

Their latest offering – Same Team: A Street Soccer Story – told the story of five women’s experience of being homeless as they set out to win the 2009 Homeless Football World Cup in Milan.

East Lothian Courier: Same Team: A Street Soccer Story – told the story of five women’s experience of being homeless as they set out to win the 2009 Homeless Football World Cup in MilanSame Team: A Street Soccer Story – told the story of five women’s experience of being homeless as they set out to win the 2009 Homeless Football World Cup in Milan (Image: Web)

The Dec 8-23 production was partly based on Team Scotland’s previous successes in the tournament, lifting the trophy in 2007 and 2011.

It was created in partnership with the women of Dundee Change Centre’s street soccer team and the Traverse Theatre, where Robbie works as a creative engagement director, and was presented live at the theatre in Edinburgh last month.

Speaking about the production, Robbie said: “It was really great. The theatre was mobbed and it got a lot of positive feedback.

READ MORE: Prestonpans: Documentary offers new look at acclaimed county play

“It’s been described as ‘hysterical’, which I am really proud of because sometimes I don’t think I am that funny.”

Robbie and Jack spent nearly a year creating the play, working with the street soccer team in Dundee to write and produce it.

Robbie, grandson of former East Lothian Provost Pat O’Brien, added: “We met Andy Hook and Sarah Rhind from the group to chat about the prospect of working with the women’s team in Dundee. Then we visited the group for the first time and talked about what they would like to explore in the workshops. We started working with the players on their own writing before beginning to create the characters and story.

“What followed over the next year were some of the most joyous times in our careers. We laughed, we trained, we wrote, we played games and at one point the team even made an obstacle course for us.”

Robbie said that transferring the story onto the stage was a huge honour.

He said: “We base our productions on real-life people. This was an important story to tell and we’re honoured to have been able to tell it.

“Working with the players was brilliant; they are all hilarious and really brought the production to life.”

East Lothian Courier: 549: Scots of the Spanish Civil War - Image: Mihaela Bodlovic549: Scots of the Spanish Civil War - Image: Mihaela Bodlovic

Last year also saw Wonder Fools release a 15-minute documentary on their play 549: Scots of the Spanish Civil War.

Set in a small pub in Prestonpans, the play follows four Millennials who are told the true story of four local miners who, 80 years ago, travelled to the valleys of Spain to fight in the civil war.

The documentary followed the Wonder Fools team as they met with the families of those who took part in the war, and recorded early rehearsals ahead of the production, which was shown at various theatres and town halls across Scotland.

Robbie said: “That has been another great experience. We got to work with the very talented Carina Haouchine, who directed the film. Creating that production was a special experience; we started off just phoning names in the phone book who had the same surname as those who had fought.

“It was a bit of investigative journalism. Some were apprehensive and others just told us to beat it before coming back to us the next day.

“We released the documentary on YouTube for the public late last year.”

Looking ahead, Robbie anticipated another busy year, with the team currently working on a script for a Covid-19-themed production set in Ayrshire, which they hope to bring to the stage this summer.

Robbie was creative engagement director at the Gaiety Theatre in Ayr from 2020 to 2022.

He said: “It will follow the pandemic and lockdown, something we all had experiences with, and will look at how those in the area were impacted.

“We also hope to take some of our existing work back out on the road.”

Robbie highlighted how important support for the creative arts industry was, amid concerns about lack of funding. Wonder Fools relies on donations from the public to operate.

He said: “It is difficult at times, especially during financial hardships.

“I know the creative arts industry is struggling at the moment; governments are stripping back funding and that is tricky.

“I think we need to remember the benefits to stage shows and festivals. Not only do they bring people together and let them have a laugh, which we all need at times, but they also benefit the community.

“Take the Lammermuir Festival, for example, which is facing uncertainty – people come to East Lothian and pay for a hotel, visit local businesses and buy products. This is vital for the community.

“At the moment, as long as we keep producing good content, we are making enough through donations to keep going. We’ll be fine as long as work continues, but there is a concern for the industry.”