“I thought about giving up. But then I remembered who was watching.”
LONDON – Inspired by the pioneering British female boxers who fought for their right to fight, Fighter is a new, raucously visceral show from Libby Liburd, combining theatre and live boxing, that promises to pack a real punch.
Featuring a cast of actual young boxers, Fighter blurs the boundaries to leave audiences on the edge of their ringside seat. Fresh off the back of acclaimed show Muvvahood, writer/performer Libby Liburd and director Julie Addy present this piece of powerhouse theatre, using their trademark mix of hard-hitting facts, humour and lived experience. Having fought in the ring herself, it is Liburd’s own experience that lends such authenticity to the piece, which follows single mum Lee, used to fighting the world, alone. No one’s in her corner, she’s down but not out – yet. Then she steps into Tommy’s Gym and everything changes: plunged into the world of boxing, Lee’s fight really begins. What happens when all you can do is grit your teeth and keep moving forward?
Capitalising on the Olympic legacy of ‘firsts’ whereby women were allowed to fight competitively in boxing bouts, first introduced to the world in 2012, Fighter is pertinent to seeing how both arts and sports can empower women and young people. Exploring ideas around overcoming adversity, the show inherently celebrates women’s resourcefulness and courage, while also questioning perceptions of masculinity and femininity, more explicitly the perception of the role of boxing as a violent sport ‘against womankind’ and ‘not for a mother’.
Fighter draws on the genuine legacy of the professional female boxers of the late 90s who faced discrimination, sexism and court cases in order to be allowed to fight. It was argued that women shouldn’t be allowed to box on the basis that pre-menstrual tension made women ‘unstable’. At the vanguard of professional women’s boxing, Cathy Brown’s biggest fight was dealing with sexism outside the ring, and her first-hand experiences are why she has chosen to become an ambassador for Fighter. Having become the second woman in the UK to receive a professional boxing license in 1998, she now works with passion and determination to promote equality for women in sport, while helping others using the positive combination of boxing and therapy.
The production of Fighter will feature young boxers selected from Fight for Peace’s Newham Academy. The young boxers will re-create an authentic boxing gym environment, where they will practice boxing training drills onstage. While giving young boxers a chance to participate in a professional theatre production, audiences are equally being given a unique and exciting opportunity of experiencing an authentic gym environment, and in doing so encouraging the next generation of theatre goers.
Fighter plays from 25th to 27th April 2019 at Stratford Circus Arts Centre, Theatre Square, London E15 1BX. Tickets available here