Set in April 1967, in a shabby boxing gym in Bethnal Green, elderly trainer Jimmy listens to the news that the world’s heavyweight champion, Muhammad Ali refuses to fight in Vietnam. It’s a story Jimmy knows all too well. During WW1, the keen boxer refused to fight. With conscription, conscientious objectors went to prison or the firing squad. The Quaker-boxer made his choice but he still can’t face those demons from the past.
Now there’s Jo, an angry, stubborn new demon from the present. Is it even legal for a woman to box? Training her in the noble art is going to take all his strength, not to mention his patience.
“This two hander production marries the bravest of ideals with the bravest of sports and the result is something really quite special.” Commented Broadway Theatre’s Creative Programmer Sue Scott Davison. “It’s certainly not just a production about boxing; it’s about standing up for what you believe in, the significance of the white feather, the consequences of war and your actions. But there’s also a strong message about girl power. It seems unbelievable that women didn’t get a licence to box in the UK until 1998!”
Writer and director Siobhán Nicholas explains: “I wanted to explore – and honour – the psyche of the boxer and also capture the culture of the ring; I had a hunch that focusing on a retired boxer who has a very personal association with conscientious objection could allow me to come close to defining the qualities of bravery and duty.
Despite the commonly held misconception, Letchworth wasn’t founded by Quakers. However, there were a number of influential Quakers on the Board of the first Garden City Association and was home to many pacifists and conscientious objectors (as well as many men who went to fight) during the WW1.
This extraordinary story is about imparting wisdom, finding courage, understanding bravery – and learning what’s worth fighting for.
White Feather Boxer plays 19 October at 7.30pm, tickets are priced at £14, concessions £12. For more details www.broadway-letchworth.com or call 01462 681088.