Interview with Fighter’s Libby Liburd

 Libby Liburd’s (Muvvahood) raucous production of Fighter comes to Stratford Circus Arts Centre for a special run from 25 – 27 April. Fighter is inspired by the pioneering British female boxers and the genuine legacy of the professional female boxers of the late 90s who fought for their right to fight, having faced discrimination, sexism and court cases. It also capitalises on the Olympic legacy of ‘firsts’ whereby women were allowed to fight competitively in boxing bouts, something that was only introduced for the first time in 2012. I spoke with Libby, who writes and stars, about boxing, theatre’s relationship with single mothers and the play’s cast, which features real boxers

Tell us about Fighter?

Fighter is a play about a single mum, Lee, and her fight, literally and figuratively to be accepted as a boxer, a woman and a mother. 

Are you a fan of boxing? The show is described is inspired by female pioneers. 

I am a huge boxing fan. I love it as a sport, I love the drama and excitement of fights but I also love the discipline, the training and the boxing community generally. 

You are working with young boxers for ‘Fight for Peace’. How did this collaboration come about?

 I did a short scratch performance of Fighter back in March 2018 and Fight for Peace brought some of their boxers to see the show and it just went from there. I’d had this idea about putting boxers onstage and so from there all the pieces of the puzzle started to fit together.

How important is it for theatre to get out of its comfort zone?

If theatre wants to evolve, it’s vital. Change only comes through challenge, so I feel that as theatremakers we have a responsibility to challenge and push boundaries. To use a boxing term, we have to keep moving forward.

Your last production, Muvvahood, was about single mothers. You are providing a free creche on 27 April. Do you think single mothers are well represented in theatre? What improvements can theatre make for parents?

The short answer is no, single mothers are not well represented in theatre. Theatre is a really hard industry to be in if you’re a single parent – even just logistically. Coupled with that, our stories are often written and performed by people who are not single mothers themselves which has historically led to one type of story being told. I think we’ve all seen it – the story of the stereotyped downtrodden single mum, the rhetoric of the ‘broken’ family. By writing our own stories, we’re able to do something to counteract that. I recently saw Box Clever at The Bunker Theatre – written by mum Monsay Whitney, performed by mum Redd Lily Roche. It was phenomenal. You just get that extra something when you have authenticity running through the veins of a production. I think the one thing that theatre can do to support this is to give space and agency to single mothers to write their own work and also put practical measures in place to enable us to do this.

What next for you and the production? Any plans to bring back Muvvahood. 

Fighter is a huge project. We have a profile cast – the legend that is BAFTA nominee Cathy Tyson and comedy king David Schaal from The Inbetweeners. We’ve also got boxers on stage, doing live training. We have a majority female creative team of over ten people. It’s the biggest project I’ve ever done. Behind the scenes, my director Julie Addy and I, have been working on this for over a year. So of course, it won’t be the end of Fighter after this run – exciting things are afoot but I can’t talk about that yet! MUVVAHOOD is definitely going to see a revival too in the not too distant future.

Fighter is on at the Stratford Circus Arts Centre from 25-27 April

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