Inspired by the pioneering British female boxers who fought for their right to fight, Fighter is a raucously visceral show, combining theatre and live boxing, that packs a real punch and is set to play at the Stratford Circus Arts Centre in April. Featuring a cast of genuine young boxers, this show blurs boundaries in an unexplored style that will leave you on the edge of your ringside seat.
Single mum Lee is a fighter. She’s 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, which were introduced for the first time in 2012, Fighter is pertinent to seeing how both arts and sports can empower women and young people.
Exploring ideas around overcoming adversity, Fighter inherently celebrates women’s resourcefulness and courage. It also questions 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.
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.
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.
In 2016, Libby Liburd’s show Muvvahood, offered a free onsite creche to parents attending the performance at Stratford Circus Arts Centre; this was one of the first performances ever to offer the service. Liburd is delighted to continue this legacy by offering a free creche at the matinee performance of Fighter on Saturday 27th April.
Fighter is supported using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England. It is produced with support from Stratford Circus Arts Centre and Fight for Peace. Additional funders are The Lake House Charitable Foundation and Arts Award Access Fund.
Fighter by Libby Liburd comes to Stratford Circus Arts Centre from Thursday 25 – Saturday 27 April 2019.
Photo credit: Kasia Burke