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Edinburgh Fringe 2023

Why I stuck a Flare Up My Arse For England

RoxyDog – Alex Hill

Genre: New Writing, Theatre

Venue: Thespace @ Niddry Street


Low Down

Billy is an English football fan and is on his way to Wembley. It is the European Cup Final and they are going to do Italy. Except they don’t. On the way Billy does indeed, for his country and for a bit of a laugh, stick a flare up his bum. A video of it goes viral and here he explains why he did it. He takes us through his friendship with Adam thanks to the ball signed by Bobby Moore, to breakfasts at Monty’s, to meeting Daisy and missing her gig because he was too far gone with the King and the gear until that very day and beyond it. All of that is brought into stark focus when he needs to don a suit and say goodbye to his best friend Adam who is going on his final journey.


Sport brings something out of you. Put it in the heady mix with alcohol and drugs and you find yourself behaving outside of yourself in a different reality. Here Billy takes us through the problems associated with a boy who gets a friend, then drifts. It is in that drifting that he finds a community which accepts him, then manages him into who and what they want him to be. He is no idiot but the idiotic things he gets up to – whether it be having a go at Bristol Rovers supporters or in Grimsby take him on a pathway – it takes him to Wembley Way.

The notoriety that he found when his stunt went viral pitch a naïve young lad into the mix of a time when naivete can be severely punished in the media. In its wake, Billy wakes up.

Billy’s story is a narrative that has plenty of parallels in the popular press, but they tend to be of the hooligan we are told should be gleefully stuck in a cell. The fact is that there are thousands of Billys out there trying to find a community, a place to belong and a weekend to have which is not filled with drudgery. The problem Billy had was that he found the hedonistic lifestyle seductive and those that truly cared for him – Adam and Daisy – were in comparison much less attractive.

It all begins with Billy inheriting a ball, signed by Bobby Moore. Not really understanding its significance, Billy kicked it about and played games with it until Adam smacked it into the river. When Adam realised what it was, he rescued it and then declared it to be shared between them as “our” ball. To keep it safe, Adam kept it. The twist in the end is that the ball is returned to Billy, and it shows theatricality in the telling of it.

Our protagonist is beautifully played with nuance and skill. it is a portrayal of every Billy but also of a type of character who may not always see the error of anyone’s ways, let alone their own. Everything is a laugh.

It is directed with skill and the ugly side of Billy is not hidden. But there is also sensitivity to the character as we see him suffer and struggle to find the right words to express himself. It is as if he knows but wants nobody else to know that he knows and hopes that everyone can see it at the same time so he doesn’t have to explain it – it is simple complexities.

The theatricality of it – without thankfully the stunt in the title – works well and we get a really good production of an exceptionally interesting set of contexts. It acts as a commentary upon more than just sport.

In his England shirt, Billy is recognisable. In his suit at the funeral, his pain is. Having the combination of a sensitive portrayal, deft direction and a script which tells it as it is, this has a lot to commend it.