Photo Credit: Alex Brenner
Last month a friend and I were privileged enough to see Fighter by Libby Liburd at Stratford Circus Arts Centre, and I say privileged because... well - in a nut shell, I was pleasantly surprised at the performances, the message and how much I actually engaged.
So to be completely transparent and expose my bias, I have 5 favourite theatres in London. These venues are ones that, over the years, I have attached trust in. Trust to deliver my style of theatre; trust to produce something I wont fall asleep in; Trust that the expense of the ticket will correlate to the quality.
Harsh I know, especially as my whole thing is to eradicate unconscious bias. But an example, of how important it is to acknowledge (and do the work to rectify) your own discriminations.
With this bias now very conscious I had a lovely evening watching this production. I had an educational, humorous experience – and the friend I went with enjoyed it too.
I tussled internally with my bias though, and so I didn’t just get to see a great show – the production caused my development, as not just a critic, but as a person - to evolve.
Now, as an avid reader you know I am all for the dismantling of superiority systems, and I often place myself as a victim of such oppression.
But was going to see a show in a theatre that I didn’t know much about me executing elitism?
Was the fact that an actress that I admire - Cathy Tyson, being a part of the cast bait to my attendance?
Am I a hypocrite?
And so… I started to dig with more provocative questions.
Is this not the same issues Casting Directors, Agents and Reviewers face - and why they miss shows (usually situated in zone 3)?
Or that director that really liked you in the audition chooses her over you... because she’s got a BBC credit?
Is this what I've become?
This is the importance of the shadow work that I talk about in my US review!
My thing is – how can you scream about rights whilst simultaneously acting exclusive and unsupportive to something or someone else? This really made me question my Fight for great productions over large institutions.
Know how to have a loud political voice, platform, presence whilst still executing elitist behavior?
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Now back to the synopsis - Fighter is about Lee – a single mum, who wants to get fit and decides to do so by joining a gym. Tommy’s boxing Gym to be exact. It’s the 90’s and this boxing gym (alongside many others in Britain) trained males only. It explores a time where women boxers were a novelty. Which subsequently empowers Tommy (the owner of the Gym) to continuously reject Lee’s plea to join.
Lee’s determination and persistence means she eventually is accepted. More so by Tommy’s wife, played by Cathy Tyson. Cathy’s character is an amusing, light-hearted alpha female that adds authority – especially considering the time. What I also enjoyed was the scenes where Tommy left the gym - and scenes at home, orchestrating by his wife provides for a world away from the main stage, the boxing ring - away from the fight.
Photo Credit: Alex Brenner
I absolutely loved the young people, females and males that open the play, in modern day, training at Tommy’s Gym. You walk into the auditorium to an upbeat grime soundtrack that creates a vibrant diverse energy, which immediately brought down my defenses. This quality is something that I seldom feel or experience in my top 5, and was the beginning of my investigation of self as to why I am not seeing more alternative theatre. Now fighter most definitely follows a structure I am most familiar and enjoy, but this inclusion of people – that I have made the assumption belongs to the East London community really warmed my heart and reminded me of the true purpose of theatre.
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For me the title both symbolically and literally followed the Fight of a woman (all women) to take charge of their life, their body, and their children. And the premise of boxing fitted well! We all know and admire the discipline surrounding training every day, eating the correct foods and mental stamina and strength involved in being a successful boxer – and so, you can also use the same exact premise to motherhood.
An interesting moment in Fighter was a monologue by Lee where she tells the story of going to collect her son and school, standing up to his teacher and then losing him when he leaves the school playground. My critical head was on and popping to begin with, especially when Lee begins to be her son. This shift in style from a play with people to now, a sort of one-woman set up threw me. But my immersion was regained, and my critical head quieted, as Lee battled through the emotional turmoil of giving up her Fight because her son didn’t want her to. From potentially being gimmicky transitioned into the natural authenticity Libby Liburd has…. Throughout!
Written and performed by Libby Liburd check out her website here.
Acting and Writing
Fighter was at Stratford Circus from Thursday 25thApril – Saturday 27thApril..