Reviews For Friends #26: No Guts, No Heart, No Glory - Birmingham Repertory Theatre

This review was originally written for The Public reviews:

Fizzing with nervous energy

For the truly immersive No Guts, No Heart, No Glory The Studio at Birmingham’s Repertory theatre is transformed into a boxing club where five young Muslim Pakistani women from Bradford smash the mould, challenging the expectations placed upon them by family and society.

Inspired by the experiences of former British Boxing Champion aged just 16, Ambreen Sadiq (who worked closely alongside the production team and cast), and starring former British Universities Female Boxing Champion, Saira Tabasum as herself, No Guts combines monologue, authentic boxing and choreographed movement set to a live, pumping electronic score. Tabasum and co remind us of what it is like to be a teenager, finding our place in the world and struggling to be heard.

This production is the first time most of the cast had performed in front of an audience - delivery is a little rushed at times which could feel amateur but, in this context, is inspired and creates an unpolished, raw edge that gives the play relevance right from the off.

Writer, Aisha Zia has spoken candidly about feeling like an outsider as a young person, and she channels this experience in the script - the poetic dialogue takes in urban landscapes and claustrophobic communities, where the boxing ring provides welcome release from the weight of social and gender expectations. Clever use of spotlights throughout serve to literally highlight this pressure. Throwing themselves around in the dark, the girls’ passion is directed at an invisible entity. Sound Designer, Wojtek Rusin works wonders with drum beats that punctuate and anchor the aggression and turn it into something uplifting - amongst the audience there is an almost heady sensation of letting go, like dancing in a nightclub.

The buttoned-up, stationary theatre experience is well and truly pushed aside in this promenade performance, the feisty young cast deftly swopping and diving in amongst the audience. Such radical staging really helps to pack a punch - production company Common Wealth came to fame at 2013’s Edinburgh Fringe with a piece exploring domestic violence, set in a real house. Here, Production Designer, Alice Hoult has done a brilliant job of ensuring the audience is brought right into the girls’ world.

Tabasum and the girls - Seherish Mahmood, Freyaa Ali, Mariam Rashid, Nayab Din - are a force to be reckoned with delivering a big, honest performances and inspiring us all to do the unexpected. To be champions.


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