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Behind the Curtain: An Interview with 'Why I Stuck A Flare Up My Arse for England?' Writer and Star Alex Hill

Why I Stuck A Flare Up My Arse For England is a blisteringly funny new play that comes to London direct from a sell-out, five star Edinburgh Festival run. Written and performed by Alex Hill, it asks what it means to belong to a club that you live for.

I got the chance to speak to Writer and Performer Alex Hill about this football play.

What is ‘Why I Stuck A Flare Up My Arse For England’ about?


The play is about a young man called Billy who loves football more than anything in the world. Alongside his best mate Adam, Billy goes to AFC Wimbledon games every week and it’s a distraction for the other problems in his life. When they bump into a new group of mates down the pub, their lives begin to change forever.


What was the inspiration behind the show? And what made you want to write this show?


The main inspiration and the starting image for the writing process was of course, the infamous Bum Flare Man photo taken by Elliott Franks back at the euros in 2021. It got me thinking about what it means to be a ‘fan’ and the lengths we go to show support for our club and national teams.


What was your process of writing it? And what advice would you give to any new writers wanting to get into the industry?


It started when I was at drama school, and I put photos of the bum flare man on my wall… Once I’d graduated, I got to work on the story and the script. I had a very talented dramaturg, Jake Vithana, helping me craft it all which was unbelievably helpful until eventually, we got to a place where we were happy with it.


As for advice… I absolutely hate the cliché of ‘write what you know’ but admittedly it has rung true for me in this process with football. I think that having a real understanding of your subject matter and then layering your own unique voice on top will help your story feel more authentic.  


Has anything changed since last year's Fringe run? What did you learn since then to develop the show for this upcoming Southwark playhouse run?


Our creative team has grown which is exciting! We’ve got Matt Cater, a brilliant lighting designer onboard, who will help to elevate the atmosphere and execution of the piece. Alongside this, Sam Baxter’s original and commanding sound design has been tweaked to fit the larger space at Southwark. I love seeing people put their own creative spin on the play and I’m really pleased with how the show has developed since last year, I can’t wait for new audiences to see it!


As the writer and performer of the show, what is the easiest and hardest thing to tackle for both of them?


The easiest thing about writing is the freedom you get to throw ideas at the wall which might not be very good. The hardest thing about the writing is not knowing whether the audience will agree on the ideas that you keep!


The easiest thing about the performing side is knowing that you’re not messing up someone else’s script if it goes wrong! The hardest thing is the sheer exhaustion that hits after doing the show night after night.


Who would you say this show is for?


I genuinely think this show is for anyone who has ever tried to belong. I hope that theatre and football fans alike find enjoyment in it and take something away.


What would you say are the themes of the show? And how would you say this show conveys them for the audience to understand?


Tribalism, belonging, and toxic masculinity. I think the show uses the backdrop of football and the infamous ‘incident’ as means to convey these themes across in a lighter and fun way.


What are your hopes for the show in the future?


I’m already very grateful doing what we’re doing. Southwark Playhouse is an amazing venue and somewhere that I’ve watched theatre over the years so it’s surreal being able to perform there. We’re going back to the Edinburgh Fringe in August and a UK tour later in the year. The dream is to adapt the show for a TV series… who knows!


What is your favourite part of the show?


My favourite part is when Billy takes his girlfriend on a date to the theatre. It’s so much fun to perform but I can’t say any more than that!


Describe the show in one sentence.


A fiery fest of football fandom and fun.


 ‘Why I Stuck A Flare Up My Arse For England’ plays at the Southwark Playhouse Borough from 17 April - 4 May,  with a running time of 70 minutes and is recommended for ages 14+. This production contains use of narcotics, discussion of suicide, and strong language.

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