Stratford Circus Arts Centre
Reviewed – 25th April 2019
“A socially relevant and uplifting story well worth telling”
Inspired by the British female boxers who faced immense discrimination in their plight to box alongside their male counterparts in the ring, Fighter by Libby Liburd (writer of Muvvahood and Temporary) is the tale of a mother’s determination to fight even when the pressures of life, both inside the ring and out, threaten her dreams of sparring glory.
Set primarily in the late 90’s; indicated by musical interludes which sent us, wistfully, back to a time pre-Instagram; we follow Lee’s journey (played by Liburd) as she enters Tommy’s boxing gym.
The play opens displaying the dynamic set design of a boxing ring, with an array of young boxers training. These young boxers are actually members of ‘Fight for Peace’, an organisation which incorporates boxing and education to support the personal development of young people. This blurred line of real life with fiction is something that Liburd incorporates often within her work and by no accident. The result is a sense of ‘edutainment’; using entertainment as a powerful conduit to bring light to a social cause. Something, Liburd manages to do quite aptly.
Liburd portrays Lee as a bubbly mother determined to have her time in the ring. This portrayal was funny and very entertaining yet there was a danger, at times, of it becoming one dimensional; with the gags over shadowing any depth of character development. However there was a welcome shift in emotional gear during a soliloquy where Lee explains her trauma at being torn between her boxing and her family, which brought a sense of gravitas, previously missing, to the role.
Lee is guided on her journey by the un-apologetically and brutally honest ‘Alison’ played by the award winning actress Cathy Tyson. Alison provides a contrast to Lee’s struggling character by delivery a sobering perspective of the reality of parenthood and sacrifice.
A notable performance came from ‘Tommy’ the owner of the boxing club payed by David Schaal. Schaal’s depiction of a weary retired boxer with a big heart was fully of pathos and humour and added a lovely complexity to the production as a whole.
Though perforated with expletives (not for the youngest of ears) the somewhat rough language of the play emphasised what was at the heart of it: the celebration of women, their trials, tribulations and constant movement to be recognised as formidable fighters along with their fellow contemporaries; male or otherwise.
A socially relevant and uplifting story well worth telling.
Reviewed by Pippin
Photography by Alex Brenner
Stratford Circus Arts Centre until 27th April
Previously reviewed at this venue: