No Guts, No Heart, No Glory
4 stars ****
Sandy’s Boxing Gym (Venue 215)
THEY’VE NEVER performed their show for a live audience before; but on Monday lunchtime in Craigmillar, at the beginning of a short Fringe run, the company of five young Asian women from Bradford who make up the cast of No Guts, No Heart, No Glory deliver a theatrical experience to remember, raw, heartfelt, blazing with energy, and sometimes absolutely beautiful.
Presented by Common Wealth – who won acclaim last year for their study of domestic violence, Our Glass House – this new theatre project began when director Evie Manning heard about a group of Asian women boxers in Bradford who train together, fight together, and compete in the national Muslim female championships. The show’s aim, though, is not only to dramatise that process of empowerment, but to ensure that the story is told through the words of the young cast, brought together through auditions in Bradford schools.
The result is an episodic and sometimes fragmentary hour of theatre, which mixes intense periods of physical movement – fighting, training, running – with eloquent bursts of monologue and dialogue, conjuring up the pressures on young Asian women in Britain today, their concerns about issues like the war in Gaza, and their blazing ambition to make more of their lives.
If the performers own the material, though, there’s plenty of quiet artistry in writer Aisha Zia’s shaping of the script, and in director Evie Manning’s staging, which allows the audience to wander freely around the gym throughout. There’s powerful live sound and music by Wojtek Rusin, and fine lighting design by Ivan Mack, highlighting the women – ofte helmeted like science-fiction warriors – in pools and shafts of blue, gold and white light; and although No Guts, No Heart, No Glory feels like the start of a conversation rather a perfect piece of theatre, it unleashes young voices that matter, and does it with skill, passion and power.