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No Guts, No Heart, No Glory (Edinburgh Fringe)

Common Wealth's new show about Muslim female boxers comes out fighting

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

© Christopher Nunn

There is a popular image the nation has been fed of British Muslim women, one cultivated by the media and perpetuated by fictional representations. It doesn't usually involve a pair of boxing gloves. Common Wealth's new show, staged in a boxing gym in Craigmillar, takes a side-swipe at these kind of stereotypes, fighting for a platform from which these women's voices can really be heard.

Developed with its young cast of Muslim women, whose ownership of the material is palpable, No Guts, No Heart, No Glory uses the focal point of boxing as a way of exploring the many ways in which identity and expression are limited for these girls. Between jumping, skipping and pounding punch bags, the cast voice the unsaid: the aspirations that don't fit, the community surveillance that feels stifling, the decisions far too complex to be making at 16.

One quietly devastating monologue explains the personal decision making process behind accepting an arranged marriage, weighing individual happiness against the happiness of a whole family. As a chorus, the five young women protest against the constant observation that they find themselves under in their communities, where everyone knows everyone's parents. They talk about dreams and politics and the perceptions that others have of them.

The material is scrappy in both senses of the word – fragmented but fierce. Theatrically, it sometimes struggles to hold together, but it is powerful nonetheless. And in the end the piece is surprisingly optimistic, sounding a note of youthful defiance and a call to stand up for what matters, both big and small. In spite of everything, No Guts, No Heart, No Glory comes out fighting.

No Guts, No Heart, No Glory runs at Sandy's Boxing Gym until 25 August.