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Fight Like a Girl (Susan Elkin reviews)

Fight Like a Girl
Book, Lyrics & Direction by Nick Stimson. Music by James Atherton.
society/company: British Youth Music Theatre
performance date: 29 Aug 2019
venue: Mountview, 120 Peckham Hill St, London SE15 5JT
Fight Like A Girl was written for British Youth Music Theatre three years ago by Nick Stimson and James Atherton. It has been substantially redeveloped since then and this is a brand-new production.

Stimson’s book and lyrics (he also directs) tell a powerful, topical story about Shannon, a deeply troubled teenaged girl (Jasmine Smith) who was separated at birth from her twin and adopted. She has grown up feeling a misunderstood outcast, does badly at school and, almost inevitably, gets into trouble with the law. She’s a fighter in every sense. Then, inspired by Olympic Champion Nicola Adams, she discovers the art of boxing. It’s a gritty piece about love and reconciliation among other things. Along the way we consider the plight of the homeless, life in a young offenders’ institution, parenting and adoption issues and a lot more.

James Atherton, composer and musical director, provides tuneful, evocative music and I really liked the rhythmic work using the ensemble with simple but effective choreography (movement director: Kevin Johnson) and some well managed boxing scenes coached by Ian Perriss.

It’s a fine work for a large ensemble (40 young people aged 12-21) because it provides lots of opportunities for small singing roles and makes imaginative use of every cast member. There are no also-rans in this production.

Smith delights in the lead role. She has a real knack of hitting top notes with harsh anguish but staying in tune at the same time. Eden Glennie is strong as Lukey, a decent lad who excels at boxing, refuses to join in collective bullying and eventually becomes a sort of boy friend to Shannon. His is a very rounded character and Glennie conveys that well. Myla Newell is good to watch too, as Shannon’s easy going friend Zoe – nothing like as lightweight as her character initially seems.

These young people met for a long weekend in May after which casting took place. Then they had an intensive fortnight to get this piece together – quite an achievement in a very short time. It’s an enjoyable show – my only caveat is that it’s a bit drawn out and might benefit from being 15 minutes shorter. Perhaps it tries to deal with too many issues.

This is the first time I’ve seen BYMT in action since they relocated to the new Mountview HQ at Peckham last year. It’s quite a building and seems to be bringing out the best in the company which is celebrating its 15th birthday this year. Executive producer, Jon Bromwich, tells me that around 40% of the young people BYMT works with go on to conservatoire training.

 First published by Sardines:
Author information
Susan Elkin Susan Elkin is an education journalist, author and former secondary teacher of English. She was Education and Training Editor at The Stage from 2005 - 2016
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