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James Willstrop and Birmingham school children set to star on stage in new squash play

Commonwealth Games gold medallist James Willstrop and children from inner city Birmingham schools will be creating a drama on the squash courts at the University of Birmingham with a brand-new play, Outside The Box. As the region gets ready for the Commonwealth Games, Outside The Box premieres as part of the Birmingham 2022 Festival at the end of May.

Outside The Box is a celebration of the game of squash. Brought to life on three glass-walled courts, a cast of professional squash players, actors and school children explore the fascinating origins of the sport from a London prison to the mountains of Pakistan and beyond. The story of squash mirrors the evolution of the Commonwealth, and Outside The Box playfully explores this journey for families and young people.

Outside The Box will highlight the physically demanding nature and global appeal of squash, pay tribute to the achievements of some the game’s greatest players, such as the Pakistani players of the illustrious ‘Khan Dynasty,’ and reveal the incredible struggles players like Maria Toorpakai went through just to be able to play the game.

Willstrop in action in the 2021 Canary Wharf Classic

All performances of Outside The Box will include a star turn from former World No.1 James Willstrop, who won men’s singles gold in the 2018 Commonwealth Games.

Speaking about his involvement, James Willstrop said: “This project unites two of my greatest passions – squash and theatre. The fact that we’re working with young people, using drama to inspire them about the game is so exciting.”

The play has been created by Untied Artists and The Play House – a Birmingham based Theatre in Education charity – in collaboration with local school children.

Jake Oldershaw, Director at Untied Artists said: “Working with children in our super-diverse city has illustrated why we need stories that unite us regardless of our complex global histories. Sport always finds a way to do exactly that.

“Thanks to generous funding from Arts Council England and the National Heritage Lottery Fund we are able to offer the performances for free. It’s a fantastic opportunity for audiences to visit one of the Games venues and discover more about this incredible sport.”

Outside The Box is presented by the Birmingham 2022 Festival, a six-month festival which surrounds the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games.

Raidene Carter, Executive Producer for the Birmingham 2022 Festival said: “This year sport and culture will go hand in hand for one huge celebration. As the Commonwealth Games arrive in the region, the Birmingham 2022 Festival programme will celebrate and explore sport through a whole range of art forms from theatre to visual arts, music to film. Outside The Box is a brilliant, theatrical response to a fantastic sport and we’re sure audiences will enjoy the unbeatable combination.”

Birmingham 2022 Festival presents Outside The Box at the University of Birmingham Sport & Fitness squash courts on Saturday 21, Sunday 22, Saturday 28 and Sunday 29 May at 11.30am and 2.30pm. All ages are welcome. For further information visit birmingham2022.com/festival. Tickets available here.

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