Reviewed by Catherine Joyce
Glory is a new play by Nick Ahad and is set in the world of wrestling. We have previously seen another of Nick’s plays – The Chef Show and really enjoyed it, so whilst a play about wrestling didn’t immediately appeal to us we were hoping that we would find this show just as entertaining.
Walking into The Dukes we both did a double take as the Round Theatre had been completely transformed into a dingy “backstreet” gym, complete with wrestling ring. A lot of thought had been put into the design and it really was quite impressive. The round shape and size of the theatre really lent itself to the set with the seating arranged around the ring making us spectators and not just an audience. The lighting of the theatre was simple but also very effective, subtly changing as the story developed and drawing our eyes one way or the other.
The play is about Jim “Glorious” Glory who in the heyday of British wrestling was quite a star. Unfortunately time has moved on and he is no longer the star he once was and is now running a struggling gym. He spies his chance of fame again with three lads who come to the gym and the play revolves around their relationships, starting out strained but mellowing as the story unfolds.
Ben, played by Joshua Lyster, is a young black man, full of anger after leaving the army and looking for a place to train. He’s a boxer rather than a wrestler but Jim (Jamie Smelt), the owner of the gym and former wrestling star, spots his talent and challenges him to return for a chance to be trained – a decision that might change his life and help Jim pay the mortgage at the same time!
Dan, a young Chinese wrestler and regular at the gym is ready for the next step in his training and eager to spar with a new wrestler but Jim is reluctant to push him forward.
The final character in the story is Sami, a Syrian refugee and excellent wrestler, played by Ali Azhar, who far outclasses the others but whose peaceful attitude means he’d rather take a back seat than cause trouble.
Completing the look of the gym was the obligatory microphone that dropped down from the ceiling, used by Jim to introduce each of the wrestlers, it brought back memories from the 1980’s. The costumes worn by the men were also great, the shell suit of a man clinging to the past and the oddly matched and ill-fitting clothes of a refugee adding realism to the night.
As each of the characters fight their demons and the issues of racial prejudice are explored, emotions run high. Don’t mistake this as a serious play about tortured souls though, there is plenty of humour throughout the night with some of Jim’s jokes as old as his shell suit! The wrestling was great to watch, all four actors demonstrate some really skilful moves which have been wonderfully choreographed by fight director Kevin McCurdy.
Many of us aged over 40 will remember the wrestling that had become a familiar Saturday lunchtime fixture on World of Sport, names such as Big Daddy, Giant Haystacks and Kendo Nagasaki were as familiar then as any Premier League footballer would be today. We always watched it as a family watching it for entertainment rather than as a sport. Nick Ahad has taken this almost forgotten piece of British entertainment and used it brilliantly to tell an emotional and at times moving story which should be relevant no matter what your age. We really enjoyed our night at the Dukes and would definitely recommend that you see this play. After its opening week at the Dukes it begins a UK tour with dates around the UK until April.
Tickets cost from £5 to £16.50 (booking fees may apply).
Glory is at The Dukes in Lancaster from 21 February to 2 March 2019, for more information or to book tickets visit www.dukes-lancaster.org or call the box office on 01524 598500.
The Dukes, Moor Lane, Lancaster, Lancashire, LA1 1QE | 01524 598500