You are looking at a performance from our archive
Football supporters and theater audiences have a lot in common. French playwright and director Mohamed El Khatib found 53 supporters of Racing Club de Lens football club for a theatre performance about their lives. Stadium is a kind of anthropological study into one of the few places in society where people from all walks of life come together. On stage, a group of football supporters (no actors) gathers around a chip shop for a series of personal stories and scenes. El Khatib shows the stadium’s etiquette and unravels the myths about the alleged differences between football and theatre fans. A performance about a place where passion and hope survive even when daily life is tough.
Mohamed el Khatib grew up as the son of an iron foundry worker. For a long time, Mohamed el Khatib was a little embarrassed by his background, but this was mainly down to the boundless passion his
father displayed for football. High time he reconciled himself with this: with Stadium Khatib immerses himself in the world of the football supporter. His work always emerges from a curiosity about the way people live out their daily lives in separate worlds. Curious as he is to see what happens when these worlds meet, he makes a kind of documentary theatre in which that daily reality becomes dramatic material. By staying with his main characters very closely, Khatib creates unique and intimate portraits. Previous works featured meetings between characters including a cleaner, a sheep farmer, a Front National supporter and a marine.
This focus on the individual is also carried through in the much larger-scale project Stadium, in which he puts 53 supporters of the football club Racing Club de Lens on stage. Caught in behaviours that unfold according to fixed rituals and fixed patterns, the work shows how tensions arise between the individual and the group. In Stadium Khatib examines the passion that possesses people when they all direct their attention in one direction during a defined space of time, a football game or a performance. His central question: what is ‘the’ audience really, and what’s the difference between the audiences in a theatre and a stadium, apart from what they’re wearing? Whether it’s a crowd gathering for a concert by the Rolling Stones or a sports event, in both cases we are dealing with regulated ceremonies with their own fixed codes.
The supporters of RC Lens have long held the reputation of being the best spectators in France. To experience what it means for a crowd to reach fever pitch you need to take a seat on the terraces of the immense Stade Félix Bollaert and sample the atmosphere: the brass band, the dancing mascots, the sea of ‘sang et or’, (‘blood and gold’, the colours of RC Lens), the sounds of the club anthem Les Corons, which honours the club and region’s mining past. In this area, which has just about the worst health indicators of the whole country, as well as high unemployment, alcoholism and suicide figures, people’s passion for football can be intense indeed.
Khatib offers no judgements. He lets the men and women on stage speak for themselves as they gather round Momo’s chip van, made famous by the film Bienvenue chez les Chtis. One of them is 84-year-old Yvette, who has been a supporter since 1977: ‘I have never skipped a match. In 1997 my husband said he couldn’t stand it anymore. He’d had enough: of the football, of our house being completely decked out in red and yellow. He said: ‘you have to choose: me or the football’. It was no contest: I chose RC Lens.’
With Stadium Khatib creates a kind of anthropological map of the meeting place that the stadium is in essence. Along the way, in a pointed examination of what the term ‘audience’ actually means, he takes apart all the familiar stereotypes. At the same time, in Stadium Mohamed el Khatib has created a fitting tribute to the passionate supporter his father is. Also, Khatib wasn’t a bad footballer himself.
Mohamed El Khatib (1980, Beaugency) is a writer and director. In his work he combines theatre with other disciplines – visual art, film, choreography, digital media – to see what kind of tensions arise.
In 2008 he co-founded a collective called Zirlib on the premise that aesthetics are never devoid of political sense: art must be able to relate to everyday life. Meetings are always a central starting point for Khatib’s work. The idea for Moi, Corinne Dadat (2014) emerged after meeting a cleaner at a secondary school in Bourges. She scrubbed the toilets there; he was teaching theatre workshops. Khatib brought her to the stage in a ‘documentary ballet for a cleaner and dancer’. Finir en beauté, about the death of his mother, was a great success at the 2015 edition of the Festival d’Avignon and was awarded the Grand prix de littérature dramatique. He created an installation, Renault 12, featuring a road movie between Orléans and Tanger. In C’est la vie (2017) Khatib put two actors on the stage who had both lost a child. With Stadium, featuring 53 supporters of Racing Club de Lens on stage, Mohamed El Khatib is making his debut in the Netherlands. Khatib is an associated artist at the Théâtre de la Ville in Paris, the Centre dramatique National de Tours - Théâtre Olympia, and TnB – Théâtre national de Bretagne – Centre Européen Théâtral et Choréographique.
- Mohamed El Khatib, Fred Hocké
- Mohamed El Khatib
- scenography, light, video
- Fred Hocké
- Arnaud Léger
- artistic collaboration
- Violaine de Cazenove, Éric Domeneghetty
- 53 supporters from Racing Club de Lens