GYPSY Queen, Rob Ward’s drama about the unconventional love story between two professional boxers, will play York Theatre Royal Studio tomorrow as one of 11 venues on its third tour.

Presented by Emmerson & Ward, playwright and actor Ward’s Manchester company with producer Max Emmerson, the tale of finding love in the most unusual circumstances explores LGBTQI visibility in sport, faith, sexuality and the notion of masculinity.

“It’s the first time our company will be performing in York but I did tour a one-man show about homophobia in football, Away From Home, to the Theatre Royal Studio in May 2014,” recalls the Wirral writer, performer and openly gay Everton fan.

No Premier League footballer has come out as gay during his playing days. “There’s been only one openly gay boxer whilecompeting; that’s Orland Cruz, the Puerto Rican fighter,” says Rob.

“For me, as a writer, starting with Away From Home, I remember there were no role models amid the big sporting culture at a blokey, all-boys comprehensive school. That world did not promote openness about being gay, and I started thinking, ‘it can’t just be me that’s had this experience’. I thought, ‘this might get some interest because I don’t know of other pieces that have addressed being gay in sport’.”

Rob says “conversations are happening in football but it still doesn’t get mass media coverage”: “It still feels like we get crumbs from the table and we’re still not moving this issue forward enough in the sporting world.”

Gypsy Queen grew from an initial Ward piece in Manchester prompted by the debate surrounding the rights of LBTG athletes at the 2014 Winter Olympic at Sochi, Russia. “I always wanted to expand it and when world champion boxer Tyson Fury made his homophobic comments and there was a debate about whether he should be nominated for BBC Sports Personality of the Year... from that moment I suddenly had this idea: what if one of the boxers in the play was from a traveller background? That opened another world and gives the play an extra kick.” says Rob.

Gypsy Queen depicts “Gorgeous” George O’Connell, a bare-knuckle fighter from a traveller family. Played by Rob, George enters the world of professional boxing, putting him on a collision course with his roots, his fears and his identity. In the opposite corner, Dane “The Pain” Samson, the young pretender and son of a boxing legend, is fighting his own battles that lead to a tragedy that neither could predict.

Ward and John Askew play nine characters between them. “Mainly the play has had a positive response, and it’s very touching when you hear LBTG people saying that they really appreciate what we’re doing after years when they couldn’t hear their voice on stage,” says Rob.

Gypsy Queen visits York Theatre Royal Studio, tomorrow (February 13), 7.45pm, and Hull Truck Theatre, Friday and Saturday, 8pm. Box office: York, 01904 623568 or at; Hull, 01482 323638 or