Why I stuck a flair up my arse for England | Southwark Playhouse

As click-bait titles go, this one is a winner. I remembered bum-flair man and wanted to know. Would this be a sort of Whydunit that would shed light on the English male psyche? Nah, don’t be stupid. This will be an energetic romp down every cliche of British masculinity tied together with a hackneyed coming-of-age story and a sentimental climax.

Why I StucK a Flare Up My Arse for England © Rah Petherbridge.
Why I StucK a Flare Up My Arse for England © Rah Petherbridge.

The short answer is 3 grams of coke and 16 lagers. The end.

This one-man show makes its way from the Edinburgh Fringe to the Southwark Playhouse with a fair amount of buzz. Hats off to the promotion in gathering a lairy crowd (the kind who will obliviously munch a jumbo bag of crisps audible from 3 rows away for a third of the performance) and will join in on cue in appreciation of the act of chugging a pint of “beer” before our eyes. If the point is that football culture and pantomime are interchangeable it is made swiftly.

But the point seems rather to be one that many productions about young men and sports have made and continue to make: lads are repressed about expressing their feelings and crave belonging but are trapped in a cycle of self-destruction and/or anger. Usually, these works come with lots of mental health charity referrals at the end of the programme. This one came with a few gags, a one-dimensional romance and a sloppy came-out-of-nowhere ending.

As a sketch delivered energetically by its writer/actor, recent Arts Ed graduate Alex Hill (who manages a muscular performance with some varied characterisations), I can see why such a show would be popular at the Fringe. But as a London transfer that we might hope would provoke thought or emotional connection, it left me cold. Nonetheless, as a greatest hits medley of all things football violence and toxic masculinity, there probably is a following for it. Just don’t expect to get any answers.

Hill shows promise as a performer and this production is a manful effort. He offers some funny observations and there can be no doubt as to his commitment to the role. But ultimately, the story is too thin and workaday to move beyond a festival showing.

2 gold stars

Review by Mary Beer

JOSHUA BEAUMONT AND
MATTHEW EMENY PRESENT
THE ROXY DOG PRODUCTION OF
WHY I STUCK A FLARE UP MY ARSE FOR ENGLAND
WRITTEN AND PERFORMED BY ALEX HILL
17 APR – 4 MAY 2024
https://southwarkplayhouse.co.uk/

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