Glory’s Gym, run by wrestling has-been Jim Glory, has seen better days. Jim clings to the idea of a wrestling resurgence where the goodies and the baddies are easily identified, and where the ‘Baby Faces’ are the blond-haired, blue-eyed heroes of the ring, while the ‘Heels’ are instantly hateable. Cue a crass seventies joke: a black lad, an Asian lad and a Syrian immigrant all step into a gym and it’s not a multicultural success story. Glory’s is a gym in an unnamed northern town where tensions are high and stories are never as simple as good guys and bad guys. Nothing is ever just black and white.
This is a brave, bold production that could easily tip into racism while trying to highlight the racial tensions of modern-day Britain, but it doesn’t. Nick Ahad’s controlled, witty writing holds the production together while Rod Dixon’s direction keeps it from spilling into just another Rocky-esque testosterone comeback story.
The whole of the stage is taken up by a wrestling ring, into which the characters throw themselves, wrestling each other inches away from the audience, and it is exhilarating to watch. Fight director and choreographer Kevin McCurdy has managed to make this look brutally real.
Special note should be made of Tayo Akinbode’s quietly important soundscapes, which help to create such a full production in a limited space.
Let’s have more spandex in theatre, I say.