The death of 56 people in the Bradford City fire disaster of 1985 brought a revolution in ground safety and heralded the modern era of ultra-safe stadia. But for those connected with the club and the city, the memories are not as easily consigned to history as concrete and steel, and as the thirtieth anniversary passed last year, it was clear the city’s wounds were still open. This harrowing piece of verbatim theatre, delivered by a cast of three, gives voice to survivors’ stories.
This is a place, and a side to the era, which is rarely at the forefront of the collective psyche. There’s nowt flash about Bradford, the city or the club, and in the recollections of rattles on the terraces and even in the names of the dead, there’s a sense of the long bygone, even though this is only thirty years ago. But in the accounts given, there’s a life and a vigour, and repeated exhortations about the strength of Yorkshire grit, to remind the collective psyche that it neglects this wrongly.
Verbatim theatre is rather voguish, and this falls foul of some of the weaknesses of the genre – dryness and lack of dynamics. More clips from news reports could have been judiciously used, to bring a sense of immediacy to the testimonies being given many years afterwards. No-one could fail to be moved though, particularly those close to this or other disasters, and Sheffield’s FYSA Theatre have done great honour to the memories of those who died. Tears are shed.