Theatre preview: No Guts, No Heart, No Glory, Bradford Boxing Academy

The cast of No Guts, No Heart, No Glory. PIC: Sophie Gerrard
The cast of No Guts, No Heart, No Glory. PIC: Sophie Gerrard
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lNo Guts, No Heart, No Glory has, ironically, ended up being a terrible name for Evie Manning’s latest play.

The show about young Muslim women boxers from Bradford actually displays guts, heart and now glory in abundance.

The play, which opened in its home city this week, is making a triumphant return to Bradford after an extraordinarily successful run at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

As director Manning says: “There are 3000 shows in Edinburgh and only a handful get a Fringe First, so yes, we were all pretty proud about it.”

If you were to characterise this show, you might use the analogy of the boxing movie Rocky.

A triumph against the odds, an underdog coming out on top, few would have predicted how successful the show would be when it was first created in Bradford last 
year.

Very simply, it tells the story of a group of young female Muslims who discover a talent in the boxing ring.

Manning’s Common Wealth Theatre company, of which 
she is a co-founder, worked with Bradford’s Theatre in 
the Mill to create a show that has garnered national attention, as well as a Fringe First.

No Guts, No Heart, No Glory has created such conversation, perhaps, because it takes a recognised stereotype and turns it on its head.

Muslims have become one of the most discussed minorities in the British media.

Unlike many of those writing about Muslims, Evie Manning knows them. She grew up with Muslim people and, for this play, spoke to young Muslim women in 
order to find their authentic voice.

“We thought that there was a really interesting story to tell, one that hasn’t already been told, a different representation of Muslim women not 
as an oppressed stereotype 
or victim, but as young 
women doing amazing 
things.

“I was brought up in a predominantly Asian area 
of Bradford and I have seen 
so many perspectives of 
Asian women that just aren’t seen in the media and that’s what we were concerned 
with.

“Asian women are often invisible, unrepresented or misrepresented in the media. In fact, Asian young people generally, particularly since September 11, are only discussed in terms of extremism, radicalisation, forced marriages.

“So growing up in an Asian area and seeing all the positives of living amongst an Asian community, I wanted to do something positive, tell a positive story.”

That something positive was to take the story of Keighley boxer Ambreen Sadiq, a teenage boxing 
champ and Saira Tabasum, and use their stories as an inspiration.

“There are strong female role models in the Asian community and we wanted to bring their stories to life. A boxer seemed a brilliant story to tell.”

Simply by existing, this piece of work is saying bold and important things. Cast member Freya Ali, 17, is still on a high having returned from a sell-out run of a show in Edinburgh.

“It was a pretty cool experience, a really amazing atmosphere,” she says.

“When I first heard about the show I thought it was really empowering.

“I was surprised when I found out that the director wasn’t Asian, but then I realised that what’s great about that is that it shows it isn’t just Asian people who are interested in this issue and in these stories.

“For me the play is about believing in yourself, about having a voice and really it’s about the potential that every person holds.”

Having played in a gym outside Edinburgh for the Festival Fringe, the show now has the home advantage. The odds are on another knockout performance.

No Guts, No Heart, No Glory, runs until September 21 at Bradford Police and College Boxing Academy, Trinity Green Campus, Bradford College, Easby Road, BD7 1JG. 01274 233200.

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