September 29th, 2016

Play to satirise Coventry’s Ricoh Arena and commercialism in sport

Updated: 1:42 pm, Jun 24, 2015

A PLAY featuring Coventry’s Ricoh Arena which satirises commercialism in sport, football and society is set to hit the stage.

The satire ‘One Year Off’ imagines how the country would react if the Prime Minister banned the so-called beautiful game for one year.

To be performed as part of the Birmingham Fest 2015, it was researched and written when the then Ricoh Arena owners including Coventry City Council were embroiled in a legal dispute with Coventry City Football Club’s hedge fund owners Sisu.

The ‘comic dystopia’s character ‘Ricoh’ – played by ex-Nuneaton Town player Benjamin Thorne – performs one of four 20-minute monologues.

The Ricoh Arena is portrayed as yearning to be a far more important ‘American-style’ commercial, sporting and cultural ‘multi-purpose venue’, rather than a mere football stadium for the struggling local football club.

The Ricoh character longs to host the ‘higher class’ sports of rugby and even cricket from the ‘public school tradition’, fine arts exhibitions and to be a vast social and commercial enterprise.

Research by co-writers Olly Forrester and Dom Fletcher included attending a sparsely attended Sky Blues game at the Ricoh.

Olly says they were also struck by the aspirational commercial language of stadium management company Arena Coventry Limited’s website and its lack of reference to Coventry City FC, as well as its tweets about anything from Coldplay concerts to activities for Valentine’s Day.

The Sky Blues had temporarily moved to Northampton Town at the height of the dispute before the stadium company was sold by the council and the Alan Edward Higgs Charity last October to Premiership rugby club Wasps, historically from London.

Olly, a Birmingham University History graduate, added: “We’re not criticising people. It’s a bigger satire about football and how venues are changing.

“We’re satirising the Ricoh Arena’s ambition to be all things to all people. It could be seen as a bigger satire about how those grounds are becoming so much more than football stadiums and have those high ambitions to be multi-purpose venues.

“It’s poking fun, but is not a direct attack on anyone.”

He said after PM David Cameron bans the country’s “biggest indulgence” of football for a year, the Ricoh “doesn’t want to be returned to the sport of football.”

A fictional fan called ‘Sky Blue Steve’, breaks in to the stadium in outraged protest over the hosting of anything from food outlets to a fine arts exhibition containing a painting shipped over from Paris’s Louvre art gallery.

The play, directed by Robert Ball of Stratford-based FRED Theatre company, will be performed at Birmingham’s Old Joint Stock Theatre from July 16-18.

Publicity for the play adds: “Told through the eyes of four people defined by football, this is a play about grief, desperation and delusion, and how we confront challenges to our identity.”

More details about the production can be found here: http://www.oldjointstock.co.uk/whats-on/one-year-off