We are incredibly pleased to be presenting new work by our Associate Artist, Libby Liburd from Thursday 25 April 2019. Her new play FIGHTER digs deep into her experiences as both a single parent and female boxer to celebrate the strength and determination of pioneering women. We caught up with Libby during rehearsals to find out more…
Combining boxing and theatre is a unique proposition, where did the inspiration for Fighter come from?
I fought myself and just fell in love with boxing. I am also an actor and love theatre. It seemed to me obvious to put the two loves together.
But I was clear from the outset that I wanted to create an authentic fusion - that I wanted to fully involve the boxing community in the show. That's how the partnership with Fight for Peace came about.
Were you a boxer first or a playwright? What do you get from each discipline of writing and fighting?
I was an actor first, then a boxer, then a playwright. In that order! I think anyone that writes would benefit from boxing! Writing as a process requires you to be in your own head, it requires a lot of thinking, alone time and research. Boxing on the other hand requires you to be out of your own head, it connects you with your body, it's great for stress and the endorphins you get after training are amazing!
It’s shocking that female boxing was banned until as recently as the 1990’s. How does the show shine a light on the pioneering women who fought to get in the ring?
The show itself is set mostly in the late 1990's during the major changes that were going on for women boxers (bans being lifted, court cases being won). It gives context to the show, and provides the backdrop for all the action. The show is a fictional story but it's heavily based on my own lived experience and months of research. The lead character Lee (played my me) looks to the female boxers of that time as inspiration as she approaches her first fight. It very much carries the message that if you can see it you can be it. Women like our Ambassador, Cathy Brown, provided visibility and inspiration for other women to begin boxing and paved the way for the boxing stars we have now.
As with your previous show we’re hosting a crèche for Fighter. Why is this so important to you?
For me, as a theatremaker, I make work that surrounds themes of motherhood. It's very important to me to make work that features single mums on stage living rounded, nuanced lives - I want to counteract the stereotypes that have existed for single mums for so long. But also, because I have lived as a single mum and actor, I know that one of the main barriers I've had in the past to accessing theatre - or indeed anything - was always childcare. And not just getting childcare but also the financial implication of getting childcare. If I can help to alleviate a bit of that worry then I will. Offering onsite childcare makes sense and can really aid in making theatre more accessible to parents generally. I hope that more venues will follow and start to think about ways that they can do the same.
We were very excited when you announced the cast for the show. Can you tell us more about who will be onstage alongside you?
I was very excited too! They're my dream cast! In the role of Alison is the legend that is Cathy Tyson. Cathy is Award Winning and best known for the classic film Mona Lisa with Bob Hoskins. People might also know her from Band of Gold and her phenomenal CV that spans years of high profile TV, film and theatre work. She was recently in the film The Fight, written and starring Jessica Hynes. The Fight also addresses themes of fighting and motherhood and Cathy had already been in and around boxing gyms for that so she's a great choice for this play.
Tommy is played by David Schaal. David has a similarly extensive CV and is a comedy legend, adored for his role as Jay's Dad in The Inbetweeners. David also has boxing experience and really embodies the role of Lee's trainer, Tommy. The pair of them make a truly hilarious double act and I couldn't be happier or prouder that I'm sharing the stage with them. And hearing them say words that I've written - wow. Also alongside us on the stage are boxers from Fight for Peace and the energy and joy that they are bringing to the show is next level. I just feel very grateful, if I was using a hashtag, it would totally be 'Hashtag Blessed'.
What can audiences expect from the show?
Expect a show that is funny, intelligent and full of heart. Expect to see actual training on stage - none of us are play acting this - it's authentic training. It's genuinely exhausting and genuinely uplifting.
Lift pitch time! Why should people come and see Fighter?
FIGHTER is a really unique theatrical experience. It's also an opportunity to support Bechdel Test passing theatre (google the Bechdel Test - it's important stuff), an opportunity to support young people and women in theatre. Our creative team is over 90% female. It's written from lived experience and with the boxing community involved. But, above and beyond all that, it's great entertainment and will be a great night out! (If you're in for the matinee, it'll be a great afternoon out!)
Inspired by the pioneering British female boxers that fought for their right to fight, Fighter is a raucously visceral show that packs a punch.
Thu 25 - Sat 27 Apr
Book now >>
Book now for Fighter
Thu 25 - Sat 27 Apr
Book now >>