Off Air

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A show with a simple idea: it’s been 26 years since the start of Stan’s Café, so how do we celebrate? The answer is a chess battle between one performer, compressing the last 26 years of world history into 26 minutes vs. 26 minutes of Stan’s Cafe’s personal history.

Stan’s Café is a theatre company based in Birmingham, established in 1991. It has been making experimental theatre and has toured internationally to great acclaim over the last 26 years.

The show is introduced as a game. The director, James Yarker, presents the two actors and the version of history they will be ‘battling’ as they are entering the boxing ring. He says that the two, Amy Taylor and Craig Stephens, each have 26 minutes to get through their 26 years of history to the audience, but last time they didn’t get all the way through the script.

It was enjoyable watching two people compete to get through a quarter of a century of material as quickly as humanly possible. It was incredibly heartfelt in places talking about personal deaths and the amount of hardship the world has gone through in the last three decades. Also, it showed how separate our everyday lives are to the rest of the world; thousands die in bomb explosions across the globe while a couple celebrate the birth of their second child and another gets their bike stolen. The piece featured re-enactments of famous speeches, such as the announcement of Diana’s death, and a segment from Stan’s Café’s shows throughout the years.

As I am not an avid follower of Stan’s Cafe work (in fact this was the first show I had seen) I didn’t understand every reference of its personal history and couldn’t personally connect with it. However, watching a condensed version of the events that have occurred over the last 26 years was informative and nostalgic.

The most entertaining moment for me was the last 10 minutes when the actors realise they are only in 2007 and have 10 minutes to condense 10 years of history. Cue the real panic in their eyes over the watchful eye of the director!

In summary: it is a great concept, an entertaining and interesting watch, and nice way to reflect on the last quarter of a decade.