Stadium at Birmingham Rep

Stadium is at Birmingham Rep this week and Brum Radio sports presenter Tim Arstall found out more for #BrumHour:

By Tim Arstall

Stadium at Birmingham Rep

Football courses through the veins of Birmingham. It beats, it pulsates, it’s raw and it’s primal. Stadium is all about that foundation, stripping back the glitz and gloss of what has become a very commercial game to capture the sport’s unapologetic coarse underbelly.

Entering the Birmingham Rep I was expecting the normal theatrical routine of padded seats and champagne bars; what I was greeted with was a set design that shattered the fourth wall. Plastic seats were ripped from some unfortunate football ground and then planted for the audience to fully immerse themselves in our sporting scene.

Stadium_Doug O'Brien_c Graeme Braidwood
Stadium by Mohamed El Khatib photo by Graeme Braidwood

If I’m honest there were elements of gentrification around the atmosphere, but the feel was authentic and what I witnessed on stage was a beautiful tribute to the love affair/bitter rivalry between Birmingham City and Aston Villa.

The show format smartly utilises two screens on opposite ends of the stage to display first hand experiences of local fans interspersed with skits, sketches and even occasional monologues. There were moments of aggression (as you’d need in any true reflection of football) as a rightfully diverse line up of the cast hurled expletive insults at each other.

Stadium_Michael Bryan_c Graeme Braidwood
Stadium by Mohamed El Khatib photo by Graeme Braidwood

There was pure beauty as a lone West Bromwich Albion fan waved a juggernaut flag made for him by his mother before her death. There was heart-warming joy as two teams of wheelchair bound fans played a mini 2 v 3 match. There was even absurdity as Blues’ mascot Beau Brummie removed his mask to begin a rendition of Hamlet’s cathartic and iconic monologue, all whilst staring into his beheaded cuddly visage. ‘To be or not to be’. That was just art.

There were also signs of fracture as, despite the host’s traumatising half and half shirt, the clear divide between ‘Working Class’ Birmingham City and ‘Better Educated’ (as one fan even put it) Aston Villa became clear. That working-class heritage is a badge of honour for Blues fans and one even interrupted the show to very eloquently object to an opposition comment about the proleteriat. What surprised me is how charged I felt.

Stadium by Mohamed El Khatib_1_c Graeme Braidwood
Stadium by Mohamed El Khatib photo by Graeme Braidwood

It takes you to another place, does our beloved beautiful game. As a Bluenose I felt those smug Villains sneering down their noses at us ‘Small Heath Pikeys’. I was ready to go, to get up and form rank. I felt the same fire I do on the Tilton where race and gender disappear in that deafening chorus of ‘Keep Right On’. If you’re blue you’re blue.

At that point I realised that Stadium was an absolute triumph.

Stadium is at Birmingham Rep until Saturday 17th June. Tickets however are SOLD OUT. Here’s the link anyway:

Tim was invited to see Stadium on behalf of #BrumHour by Birmingham Rep. These are his honestly held views.