Ant Middleton: Mind over Muscle at The Lowry Manchester Review

21 April 2019


Reviewed by Kathryn Carr

This Easter, I spent part of my long weekend with Ant Middleton, best-known as the Chief Instructor on the Channel 4 hit show ‘SAS: Who Dares Wins’. Normally, when I got to the theatre, it’s to see a play, a musical or perhaps a comedian, but not this time. And that’s the joy of The Lowry Theatre at Salford Quays; the offerings are so much wider and varied than you might expect. Ant Middleton’s visit for example, took the audience on a motivational journey of self-help and self-discovery. This event had a feel of a seminar; something of a first for me, in terms of a theatre visit.

The TV show ‘SAS: Who Dares Wins’ where ex-special forces put recruits through a recreation of the SAS selection process, really appealed to me – a once hardcore boot-camper. I’m drawn to situations that test both physical and physiological resilience and in turn, the title of Middleton’s tour, ‘Mind over Muscle’, grabbed my attention. 

Ant’s show looks at mental strength and how it can help overcome the challenges people are faced with, no matter how big or small. He talks about the importance of positive thinking and not being afraid of failure and to instead embrace and learn from mistakes to become (his favourite phrase of the show) ‘a better version of yourself.’ 

Using clips from ‘SAS: Who Dares Wins’, Ant demonstrates how the mind and body must work together to achieve. He’s chosen incidents such as contestant Louise’s comment ‘my head is done’, to show, it doesn’t matter how physically strong someone is, if their mental strength doesn’t match up. He talks about how we should focus on our physical and mental health equally, ensuring they are aligned. I completely agree but what I felt was lacking, were the tips to help do this. We all have a fair idea as to how we can improve ourselves in the physical sense but becoming stronger mentally? I wanted more instruction from this Chief Instructor. More examples from his own life and experiences as to how he’s overcome difficult situations would have really fitted the bill. 

Whilst familiar with Ant Middleton himself, I was less aware of some of his work, in particular his role in the survival show ‘Escape’. However, it wasn’t necessary to have watched his work to get to grips with his theories. Using clips from ‘Escape’, he explains why he believes everything revolves around teamwork, playing to our strengths and accepting our weaknesses.

I’d say I enjoyed the second half of the show the most, as this was the point where Ant enthralled the audience with his biggest challenge yet – climbing Mount Everest. It was here we delved a little deeper into the positive mindset, not focusing on the negatives and looking instead on the bright side, even when you are trapped in a life-threatening storm! I hadn’t seen Ant’s climb documented on Channel 4’s ‘Extreme Everest’ and I was glad; I rather enjoyed hearing his tale first hand, supported by snapshots from the show and unseen footage from the expedition.

I did feel the show ended on a lull. Ant talked about the words that are important to him and how they can help you get the most out of your life. I felt that rather than clump these words in one big block, they would have been better placed interspersed throughout the show, with a rapid recap at the end.

Whilst Ant Middleton isn’t shy of public speaking, he admitted he isn’t a bookworm or wasn’t telling us anything we don’t already know. Nevertheless, I had an enjoyable couple of hours. For fans of his TV work or books, there’s no reason not to head to this show. Same goes for anyone interested in becoming a more determined, positive and braver individual.

As a full-time mum of two pre-schoolers who doesn’t always get enough ‘me-time’,  the part of Ant’s talk that really hit home, was his thoughts around everyone needing to keep their ‘flame burning’ – by doing things that make you, you; that make you feel alive. Whilst once upon a time, my personal challenges may have involved completing Hellrunner, white-water rafting down a Croatian river and scaling an Andorran Via Ferrata, listening to Ant, I realised that my time and circumstances may have changed but that doesn’t mean I can’t challenge myself. I came away from the show having decided to sign-up for a cookery course. It may not offer the same adrenaline rush I’m used to, but it will certainly challenge and give me the opportunity to do something for me. Let’s hope it’s just my flame it keeps burning and not the food. Hang on. Positive mindset. I’m determined I’ll dish up the most delicious meal ever! 

P.S Don’t be late for this show or Ant will tell you to get down and give him ten press-ups.

Rating: 3.5/5

The Mind over Muscle Tour is running throughout April and September 2019. For dates, venues and to book tickets visit

For other shows at The Lowry in Manchester visit or call the box office on 0843 208 6000.

The Lowry, Pier 8, Salford Quays, Manchester, M50 3AZ | 0843 208 6000

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