No Guts, No Heart, No Glory @ The Queen Elizabeth Hall (Southbank Centre) Review

This is an important play about amazing young women. It is a physical show, that when you break it down is an hour long training montage visually. It is usually done in boxing gyms, although currently it is on at the Southbank Centre which does take something away from the rawness that such site-specific placement would bring.

No Guts, No Heart, No Glory

It is impossible to watch this show and not be affected. The monologues are centred on the words of real, young, female boxers. I’m a bit confused as to where it is set, if it is in the communities in London or actually in the Middle-East. Likewise, the age of the characters is a unclear, at least until they flat out state it in the latter part of the play.

There is no single part of this show that is weak. The training scenes are the bedrock of the show, and they carry it between long monologues in which we meet and get to know the girls. The stories are downright tragic, but there is an exhilaration as they reject self-pity and choose to make themselves through the boxing ring. There is no angst at their situations, rather the show is infected with the kind of joy you can only experience by putting in a good workout at a gym.

For all the strengths it doesn’t add up to the sum of its parts. Only one member in the cast seems to be putting in a real work out when she spars on stage, which makes her movements far more interesting to watch than her companions. Maybe it is the space, but some of the monologues get swallowed up, making them unforgivably hard to follow, especially for how good they are. The ending out of no where turns the play into an inspirational ad with a cool projector trick that is completely out of place.

All these faults are important, but I suspect more than a few are caused by moving from intimate boxing gyms to the vastness of the Southbank Centre. This is unquestionably a good, inspirational play, that’s why it is so frustrating to see it not quite live up to its enormous potential, at least in the current venue. 3.5/5

Review written by Ingimar Sverrisson.

No Guts, No Heart, No Glory is currently showing at the Queen Elizabeth Hall (Southbank Centre) until Sunday 8th March. For more information on the production, visit here…

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