no guts

No Guts, No Heart, No Glory

Birmingham Rep Studio


NO Guts, No Heart, No Glory is an extremely feisty tale and gives a deeply moving message, especially to women, that nobody has a right to stop a person from achieving their dreams.

As clichéd as this may sound, the art of being who you want to be and not a product of somebody else requires great determination and extreme courage. The fear to face up to those around you may be tough, but the battle is even stronger when constant disapproval come from those closest to you.

Ambreen Shadiq is a UK boxing champion from Bradford. She is also Muslim. Her story is an inspiration to all. Although achieving great and auspicious awards in a sport that she loves, Shadiq’s extended family were far from approving.

Because of her religion and gender, Shadiq has encountered prejudice from peers, people of the Muslim community and even family members. Common Wealth Theatre have taken their unique creativity and presented us with an encouraging message to be brave and stand up for what is right, no matter who is against your wishes.

As a way of the voice being heard, Common Wealth have channelled Shadiq’s boxing career and created a strong verbatim piece, based on the experiences of the cast as young, Muslim women. In a world of pre-judgements and differences of opinion, Common Wealth’s aim is to inspire those to strive and break through adversity, encouraging us, the audience, to take up something that we have never done before.

A reflection of this is through their cast of five courageous women, some of whom have never been on stage before. After going through auditions at Bradford school, the all-female cast went on to win a Scotsman Award at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2014.

No Guts is a promenade piece. As the audience enter the auditorium, we find ourselves in the middle of an all-female boxing gym. Immediately the atmosphere is focused, high energised and full of discipline. In a strong pre-set, we see the boxers training, practicing pads, skipping and drills as they welcome us into their world in the gym.

The story unfolds with a series of monologues throughout the play, led by the thoughts and feelings of each young woman who play boxers. Themes of teenage love, conflicts of parents and school worries are rife throughout. All women present their own life story and are united by one universal sport. Their bond through boxing shows that no prejudice will stop them in what they set out to do.

Although it was hard at times to connect the delivery from the cast, which included Seherish Mahmood, Freyaa Ali, Mariam Rashid, Nayab Din and Saira Tabasum, their performances were not the essence of the evening’s entertainment. This is a company who choose to let their strong and outright message talk, and the audience are just as an important part of the performance as the cast.

The ensemble, with slick and accurate direction from Evie Manning were magnificent in choral speaking pieces. There were moments when they came together and presented us with wonderful sequences displaying their raw excitement for their voice to finally be heard, dancing in the middle of the boxing ring that took centre stage and working out on bags and pads. The performers weaved in and out of us, not noticing we were there when they were training, but addressing us all the time when they had important things to say. The dark room bonded us as a group and we were made to feel included in this gym. Nothing was impossible to us and we were encouraged to go where we pleased.

The performance is an inspiration to everyone. Through the canvas of Shadiq and the rest of the cast’s stories, we are encouraged to defeat even the smallest element that will stand in the way of achieving our goals, no matter what they are. Their daring nature, infectious enthusiasm and determination to inspire is certainly heard. It will be broadcast live on BBC4 in November and I encourage anyone to see it. To 12-09-15

Elizabeth Halpin



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